From the beginning of the mediation process through the last time we see our clients, we continuously stress during our co-mediation sessions, emails, phone calls and texts, that the goal of this process should always be to focus on the best interests of their kids. We tell parents that their children are our clients and we repeatedly encourage parents to keep that in mind throughout the mediation process, especially if things get contentious. The benefits of mediation for kids are numerous. We have witnessed that firsthand with our clients over the last several years.
Improved communication between parents means less conflict for your kids. One of the greatest benefits of mediation for kids is that soon-to-be-ex spouses learn how to speak to each other in a civil manner, express their positions in a productive way and explain what they want for themselves and their children in a collaborative format. Sadly, this rarely happen when couples litigate, because attorneys are speaking to each other through pleadings or directly through conversations that do not involve the couple. The spouses are not communicating, nor are they learning how to advocate for themselves or truly explain what is important to them.
Here are 6 Benefits of Mediation for Kids
1. Mediation promotes an amicable relationship.
A happy home means happier children. When children see their parents getting along, they feel calmer, even though their parents are getting divorced and they may be going back and forth from one home to another. Therapists always say that it is better for children to be in two happy homes than to have their parents stay married in an unhappy home where there is sadness, arguing, coldness and an overall sense of hopelessness.
The arguing, yelling, shouting and using the children as pawns are some of the saddest and most heartbreaking parts of a divorce, especially when done in front of their kids. To be happy, children need to see their parents happy. If not, they will not be happy, they will believe that marriage is not good and they will go through life with an extremely negative view of marriage.
2. Mediation makes decision making easier.
Let’s say one of the children wants a new activity. If parents have mediated their divorce, their communication has improved and it will therefore be easier to discuss and come to a decision. Keep in mind, there will be times when even good co-parents disagree, but presuming they had a civil and collaborative mediated divorce, there is a better likelihood that they will overcome the impasse and reach a good agreement for their children. This only happens when parents are working together for their children, before, during and after the divorce, and have learned tools in mediation that will aid them when a rough patch in their lives comes up. So, when one child wants to try a new activity or switch sports, the parents need to be able to make that decision together for their child. Mediation helps ensure this will happen.
3. Mediation keeps parents on the same page when handling kids’ problems.
There will undoubtedly be stressful situations going forward when parents need to be on the same page. They will be better able to handle issues like problems at school, friendship battles, whether a child needs a tutor or needs to switch doctors. These will be the times when parents need to be on the same page. A child may get in trouble in high school or need to be guided from negative situations. Choosing a college is also a time when parents need to be able to work together. All of these will be easier and less traumatic if the parents are able to co-parent successfully with the skills learned in mediation.
4. Mediation works, and it saves money.
A litigated divorce, on average, can cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, even when the parties are somewhat civil. Litigation also can take months or even years to resolve. A mediated divorce, if everyone participates and does their homework, only costs a few thousand dollars, and as little as $2,500 to $3,000 for the attorney to draft the documents necessary to take the case to court and complete the divorce, with the added benefit that you can be divorced in a few months if you mediate. This means more money for college for the children and retirement for the parents. We always discuss opening a college account for the children if one has not already been set up. Even contributing $25.00-50.00/month for young children will result in significant money by the time the children are ready to consider going to college.
5. Mediation is emotionally healthy for kids.
When children see their parents sitting next to each other at their high school graduation, working together to decide on college, planning and being part of weddings together, not to mention being together when grandchildren are born, or just sitting next to each other at a soccer game for young children, it makes them feel peace and love and security. This contributes to kids’ emotional health and overall happiness. It can make a huge difference in their lives in the long-term.
6. Mediation is a great option for post-decree issues.
We often see our post-decree couples, those who mediate after a divorce or parenting case has been completed, come to the first session not having seen each other in months, only communicating through email, never attending an event together for their children. You get the picture. They parent the children solo, they never learned to co-parent, or they refuse to listen to anything the other parent has to say, even if that input is in the children’s best interests.
Opposite of that, very few of our co-mediation clients ever have the need to return to mediation, as we helped them to learn a better way to communicate, co-parent, empathize and work together for their children Much of our time for post-decree couples is spent just listening to them speak to each other because they literally never do that, much less on the same computer screen for a zoom meeting or in person. Then they start to come up with agreements about seemingly simple issues only because they have not talked to each other about anything for so long. It’s great to be able to do that post-decree, but how much better would it have been for their children had they done this before?
The benefits of mediation for kids are endless. Mediation strives to ensure that children are in a good place before, during and after the divorce. We know divorce is tough on everyone, especially the children, even with the most well-intended parents. With mediation, we help our clients and their kids see the future in a positive light, a future in which everyone is happy, healthy and thriving at life. What more could you want?
Brian James has been a divorce mediator since 2005. A graduate of Northern Illinois University, Brian completed Northwestern University’s training in mediation and conflict resolution. Prior to becoming a mediator, Brian spent 10 years working in the criminal justice system helping victims of domestic violence, as well as divorcing couples and their children. Learn more by visiting the C.E.L. & Associates website.