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Giving Children and Young People a Voice

By Andrew Boyd, Mediator

This week is Family Mediation Week (20-24th January), which aims to raise awareness of mediation and how it can help separating families manage their issues collaboratively and productively.

Relationships Scotland are Scotland’s largest provider of relationship counselling and family mediation. Their Family Mediation service provides a space for separating or ­separated parents to discuss and plan future arrangements for their ­children with a third person, the mediator, there to help them to have a productive conversation.

Rosanne Cubitt, Head of Practice for Mediation at Relationship Scotland recently wrote a blog for the Relationships Scotland website, where she highlights the importance of ‘kids having opinions too’. Rosanne wrote, ‘It is important for children to feel heard and for their experiences and views to be considered. Research shows that most children want to be involved in decisions that affect them and it is good for their mental health and wellbeing for them to talk and feel listened to. Listening to children is not about them being the decision maker, but having a voice.’

Working as part of Cyrenians, the Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution (SCCR) is a national resource, promoting and supporting best practice in mediation, family conflict resolution and early intervention work, with a particular focus around young people and families. Cyrenians’ Mediation and Support service offers an early intervention approach to prevent relationship breakdown, offering both one-to-one support and mediation. Last year 98% of the young people that worked with the Mediation and Support service remained at home, returned home or moved out in a supported way. It is clear that mediation provides an effective space for children and young people to express their needs and for them to be listened to. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is clear that children who are capable of forming their own views, have the right to express them freely in matters affecting them and the subsequent right for those views to be given due weight, according to the child’s age and maturity.

On 29th January the SCCR is holding its Annual Conference with the theme of ‘The Faces of Transition’. Inspired by the Roman God Janus, the conference explores the themes of beginnings and endings of conflict, transitions, time, duality and how our past can impact our future but does not define us. We are fortunate that there will be some young people attending and contributing to our conference. The young people will be telling us about their own experiences of mediation and in particular how peer mediation has benefited their school communities.

Young people are the future so it is vital that we listen to their views, benefit from their wisdom and act to make Scotland the best place for children to grow up.

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