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Whose Side Are We On? the Same Side!

Rachel Alexander April 21, 2016

{3:00 minutes to read} Not long ago, I heard something fairly remarkable in my mediation session. To set the scene (semi-fictionalized for the sake of confidentiality), last spring, my clients had an issue with childcare and had to bring their children—an 8-year-old boy and 9-year-old girl—along to mediation. While I don’t recommend it, in the particular circumstances, it was a reasonable option for these children. The session was at my home office during the summer, so the children were able to sit outside and mostly entertain themselves with electronic devices and one another.

At one point, however, the girl, a precocious, inquisitive child, entered the mediation room and, noticing the matching folders I provided each client, asked her mother, “Why do you and Dad have the same folders?” To which, without hesitation, the mother replied, “Because we are on the same team.

I couldn’t have said it any better. This client articulated what mediation can do and the message that it can convey to the children.

Mom and Dad are on the same side, working together to resolve issues affecting the whole family, so everyone can move forward in the best possible way. This act of cooperation provides a supportive and reassuring message for kids. The children see their parents acting as a unit and behaving as their evolved selves. Parents are managing the situation, addressing their children’s needs, and demonstrating leadership and integrity. This exemplifies parents nourishing their children, which is, after all, the dynamic of a functional family.

It is the antithesis of what divorce often engenders—a disordered, contentious atmosphere wherein parents regress and aggress against one another, forcing their kids into the fray. Even when parents don’t directly involve their children but behave as adversaries instead of allies, the effect on their children can be deleterious. Children can feel destabilized and fearful. Their parents—the people responsible for their care—are divided, and they now have less of a support team or system than they previously depended upon.

When parents act childishly by demonstrating short-term, stubborn thinking and are emotionality devoid of reason, children can feel embarrassed, ashamed, and unsafe. They can feel abandoned, and rightly so, as they no longer have reasonable, thoughtful parents working cooperatively to protect them.

In divorce mediation, the spouses are on the same team. And with teamwork, they and their children often win!