It’s normal to worry about what impact your separation is having on your child/ren and how they will adjust to the family’s changing circumstances. Research has shown that children adjust better when their parents can find a way to communicate without conflict and to co-operate about parenting.
In some circumstances, where appropriate your mediator may recommend to arrange for your child/ren to be interviewed by a child specialist consultant. For some children, the opportunity for them to debrief and to share their own thoughts and feeling in a safe and supportive environments can be very helpful. This information is then shared with the parents and the mediator to further assist them with their decision-making. Mickey provides this service to mediators who wish to supplement the mediation with Child-Inclusive consultation.
The Child-Inclusive method is perhaps best described as a special therapeutic mediation model, anchored clinically within frameworks of attachment and developmental theory. Its primary aim is to assist parents to re-establish or consolidate a secure emotional base for their children after separation. It shares the same goals of Child-Focused practices, and crucially also adds distinguishing principles that includes:
- consulting with children in a supportive, developmentally appropriate manner about their experiences of the family separation and dispute;
- ensuring that the style of consultation avoids and removes any burden of decision-making from the child;
- understanding and formulating their child’s core experience within a developmental framework;
- validating children’s experiences and providing basic information that may assist their present and future coping;
- forming a strategic therapeutic loop back to the child’s parents by considering with them the essence of their child’s experience in a manner that support them to hear and reflect upon their child’s needs; and
- ensuring that the ongoing mediation/litigation process and the agreements for decisions reached reflect at core the psycho-developmental needs of each child.
This approach is organised around a careful evaluation of parent’s suitability for the work; a therapeutic consultation with the children by an independent specialist; followed by a dialogue between parents, the child specialist consultant and mediator about the unique developmental needs and psycho-emotional adjustment of each child within the family. Following these specialist consultations, the mediation process then proceeds on the basis of this feedback.
Hearing the inevitable appeal from their own children for a reduction in conflict and change in the climate of family communication has had powerful effects that are not equally well achieved by methods that do not permit direct exploration of children’s experiences or by adversarial processes that further inflame parental acrimony. One research study found the Child-Inclusive method promoted a significant level of repair to the parental relationship; offered children a greater sense of their parents’ availability; and produced developmentally appropriate agreements, with which parents and children remained more content over the year following mediation.
In light of the complexities that necessarily accompany protracted (mediation) disputes in family law, the child specialist consultant must be equipped with an adequate social science background. Substantial formal training in developmental, attachment, trauma and family system’s theories and experience in the clinical application of these theories is requisite. A postgraduate qualification in counselling, psychology or psychotherapy is recommended as a minimum benchmark for formal qualifications, coupled with two years’ experience in working with children, adolescents and their families in a mental health or community health setting. Legally trained professionals are invaluable in the role of mediator, but as the Child-Inclusive process is one of psychological rather than legal representation, legal training does not suffice for the role of child specialist consultant. A review of Mickey Skidmore’s professional education, training and credentials highlight such a social science background in addition to his most recent Graduate Diploma in Family Dispute Mediation which he completed in June 2017.
For professionals in search of child specialist consultants, they can be assured that the services offered by “Turning Points” is closely aligned with the Child-Inclusive Model championed by the clinical child psychologist and research consultant, Dr. Jennifer McIntosh.