Minor children are often the reason that individuals preparing for divorce go to mediation. The parents in the family want to limit the stress on the children and therefore seek to reduce the degree of conflict that occurs during the divorce.
Mediation is a powerful conflict resolution tool for those preparing for the end of a marriage. In some circumstances, mediation can lead to a more effective parenting plan and might even help mitigate the damage to the co-parenting relationship often triggered by intense divorce disputes.
How can parents preparing for mediation keep the focus on their children instead of letting their emotional reaction to divorce dictate what happens during mediation sessions?
By keeping their children uninvolved
Mediation can be useful for child-centered divorces in part because it eliminates the pressure on children to testify about their preferences or otherwise play a role in the divorce process. Children do not want to play a role in their parents’ divorce in most cases. They should not need to make a statement of preferences, as the parents can agree to cooperate without making the children voice an opinion. Using mediation as an opportunity to work through any remaining disagreements in an environment where the children won’t witness the conflict can help shield children from what is one of the most damaging aspects of parental divorce.
By setting clear goals
Parents often have shared goals for their children. Perhaps they want to help a child achieve success in their favorite sport, regardless of whether it is hockey or gymnastics. Maybe academic success is the prime objective, the children and the family may aspire to attend college and pursue highly educated career paths. When parents are clear about their long-term goals for their children, it can be easier to focus on the long-term needs of the family unit during mediation.
By seeking to minimize emotional responses
Reactivity is often the enemy of logical thinking. Of course, it is very difficult to remain emotionally unreactive in a deeply personal situation, such as divorce negotiations. Mediation offers an opportunity to talk at length while keeping one’s emotions in check. The highly-structured mediation process lends itself to a dispassionate exploration of complex topics. Relying on both the third-party neutral professional and one’s own attorney to counter emotional responses can help people keep the focus on what their children need rather than on what they feel about the situation.
Keeping mediation discussions children-centered can lead to a custody arrangement that truly works for the entire family.