As mediators, whenever we ask parents going through separation or divorce what their number one priority is, they usually talk about their children's welfare and security.

Yet, sadly, in all the distress and upheaval of separation, it's all too easy for parents to become preoccupied and overlook what children need from them most.

Reassuring them that you love them and that you'll always be there for them is extremely important - and probably very obvious to you. What may be less obvious are the benefits of keeping communication with your ex on a positive and respectful footing.

If you think your child doesn't notice the atmosphere between you, then you'd be wrong.

Having spoken to lots of children whose parents have split up, we've come up with eight key messages that children generally want to give their parents. The messages are surprisingly simple. And they apply as much to small children as they do to teenagers.

1. Please don't argue in front of us. What's the point of separating if you carry on fighting as much as ever?

2. We don't like it when you criticise or bad-mouth each other. Be kind - or if you can't be friends anymore, at least be polite to each other.

3. We won't have to worry so much if you talk to each other about things that affect us.

4. We need both of you. And we like doing everyday things with both of you.

5. Ask us what we want and listen to what we have to say. Be honest with us.

6. Please don't use as go-betweens, or to try and find out what our other parent is up to.

7. We know you want to spend time with us, but remember that we have a social life too. Sometimes we just want to be with our friends.

8. Separation affects us all differently. We can feel sad and angry about not living together anymore. But we can cope and get on with our lives, if you can too.

One of the things that makes mediation such a good way for families to decide on future plans is that child-inclusive mediation allows children to have their thoughts and feelings heard in the process.

With the agreement of parents, our specially trained mediators can talk directly to children in their own private meeting. This isn't about children being asked to make decisions; that is their parents' responsibility. However, we do find they generally want their views taken into account. And it can be really helpful for parents as they decide what arrangements need to be made for the future.