What’s the youngest age of children you’ve worked with?

We were honoured recently to host an event on Conflict Resolution Day led by Cyrenians Senior Mediator Alan Jeffrey. In addition to working for Cyrenians, Alan delivers workshops on conflict resolution, anger management and mediation skills. Alan mediating has mediated simple procedure cases for University of Strathclyde’s Mediation Clinic and Edinburgh and Borders Court Mediation. He also runs the Mongoose and Cobra website, where he blogs about relationships, mediation and conflict.

Following the event, Alan generously offered to answer questions posed during the event but which we ran out of time to put to him. Here is one such question.

Many pre-school and early years kids are disenfranchised during mediation. What’s the youngest age of children you’ve worked with? And how did this differ from working with older young people?

At Cyrenians, we have found that mediation tends to work better when parents and carers can see their children as transitioning into adulthood and where children and young people can articulate their needs and wants. Typically, we tend to work with young people at around 14 years of age because we find before that the parents tend to resort to ‘I’m the parent, I know best’; that approach often works fine…but is much less successful when young people enter their teenage years.

However! That doesn’t mean that support, conflict management, counselling and communication between young people and parents isn’t useful at a younger age. Actually, by skilling up children from a younger age we may manage to offset behaviours and negative relationship patterns becoming entrenched. At Cyrenians, we offer whole family support on our Keeping Families Together project. Younger siblings may be impacted by the challenges in the home and can access personal support alongside their older siblings and parents. We have also partnered with local primary schools to offer conflict resolution and anger management workshops.

We are also exploring peer mediation in primary schools currently, in collaboration with Scottish Mediation. I believe this is an area that would be beneficial to explore further, skilling up young people from a young age in collaborative resolution skills.

Also, people are individuals. If a younger child and their parent wanted mediation, would we say no? Not necessarily, though we would seek advice from early years specialists and employ different techniques and creative approaches.

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