This week is Relationships week (5-12 September 2022), a week dedicated to recognising and celebrating the importance of healthy relationships and their role in our overall wellbeing.
This year’s theme is milestones. When we think about relationship milestones words such as ‘moving in’, ‘engagement’, ‘wedding’ and ‘pregnancy’, will come to mind, however, relationships are not static and they are always changing. Relationships change or shift, particularly when parenthood arrives and while the connection between two people may be different, a relationship still exists even when it ends – just in a different form.
This is true for separating, separated and divorced parents – when a romantic relationship has come to an end – the relationship changes, however when children are involved there will always be a connection. The relationship continues in a different format and becomes solely focused on the children’s best interests.
When a relationship ends there is often hurt, anger, conflict and heightened emotions. At Family Mediation NI our role is to assist separated parents, when they are ready, and help them to look to the future and put their children’s needs first.
Mediation is about communication, negotiation and compromise, it aims to help parents to find a way forward and agree a co-parenting plan that not only empowers parents to work together and be the decision makers– it gives the child the opportunity to have the best possible relationship with both parents post separation .
Relationships are fundamental to wellbeing – for children this is particularly important. Poorly managed parental separation can have long term negative impacts on children, impacting on their mental health and wellbeing, read more here.
This Relationships Week our key messages are:
- UNCRC Art 9, ‘Children whose parents have separated have the right to stay in contact with both parents, unless this could cause them harm’. When a parental relationship ends, the children involved continue to have the right to a safe and healthy relationship with both parents. Separated parents have responsibility to focus on their children’s needs – separated parents will always share a connection through their children, on into the future, perhaps to grandparenthood.
- Positive relationships between children and their parents are fundamental to the child’s well-being . Children benefit from a healthy relationship with both parents, after parental separation. It is the parents’ responsibility to keep their children’s best interests at heart – even when their relationship with the other parent is difficult.
- Article 18 (parental responsibilities and state assistance) Both parents share responsibility for bringing up their child and should always consider what is best for the child. Governments must support parents by creating support services for children and giving parents the help they need to raise their children.
The role of family mediation
Family mediation can help separated parents manage conflict and empower them to develop more effective means of communication. The mediation process enables parents to focus on their children though the development of co-parenting plan that benefits everyone involved. Engaging, voluntarily with the process of family mediation enables parents to negotiate a plan with the focus on the needs and wellbeing of their children, and ensure that future plans to co-parent are in the best interests of their children.