- Respects emotions
- Encourages openness and honesty
- Builds and strengthens relationships
- Furthers clarity and understanding
- Increases awareness of individual strengths and choice
Family mediation includes relationships between adults, siblings, elders and other extended family members. The goals of the process remain the same, to facilitate open and honest communication where each person is heard and acknowledged and where shared decision making takes place to strengthen and rebuild significant relationships.
Mediation provides couples with a forum for respectful, honest communication, by encouraging compassionate listening, identifying shared values, clarifying differences and supporting dialogue and problem solving together. Couples explore how they have changed, where they align, what they share, where differences get in the way and what to do about it.
Parent – Child
Among the most unique and significant life-long relationships are between parent and child. One aspect that makes these relationships so unique is the inherent nature of it. Children are constantly changing as they go through different developmental stages and our relationships inevitably change with them. Parents experience some stages as easier and more enjoyable than others but challenges arise as behavior and attitudes change and children develop into their unique selves.
Parenthood doesn’t come with much preparation – we learn it on the job. Being a parent is full of delight, uncertainty, frustration, stress and reward. Parents are balancing work and domestic obligations, while simultaneously nurturing unique and special relationships. At times parents can feel overwhelmed, stressed and at the limit of their energy, skills, creativity and resources.
Mediation can help when we reach an impasse; when communication has broken down, when emotions are volatile, when we feel estranged from those we love most. Mediation is valuable when we don’t know what to do to repair and rebuild what has been a healthy, loving relationship.
Family relationships are most often lifelong. As we grow up and grow older, lives change and these changes affect each of our relationships in varying ways. Some of the most challenging changes occur when a family member reaches an age where basic life decisions become more difficult. This can put a strain on everyone as differences surface about how to address major life transitions including health and safety issues, financial concerns, the need for extra support and care and housing considerations. When these issues appear, adult children may find relationships and conversations with parents and siblings difficult and sometimes overwhelming. Individual family and economic considerations, and even simple geography can challenge the ability to participate actively in parent care and decisions.
When an important family discussion is needed about a major transition, from handing in the car keys to more complex care needs, mediation is an important option to consider. Mediation centering around an elder:
- Develops an understanding of how important the ability to work together is to the well-being of the elder family member
- Develops communication strategies to continue to make decisions together in the future as circumstances change
- Gives families an opportunity to identify a wide range of options and to create mutually acceptable solutions to difficult issues
- Avoids court and guardianship processes which can increase cost and conflict
Individuals and Teams
Leaders and key staff working in teams or with members of the public are faced with sensitive situations and difficult conversations daily. Under-achieving team members, tensions between strong personalities, accusations of bullying or harassment, and difficult attitudes can cause serious stress for managers and teams.
Mediation in these contexts aim for clarity, mutual understanding, and an authentic exploration of how to address the issues at hand. Mediation helps re-build broken relationships and strengthens the ability of individuals and teams to work together more effectively.
HOW IT WORKS
- The process begins with a phone call with whoever is making the referral or inquiry.
- We assess the situation together and determine how to proceed. Options are individual sessions, joint sessions or other formats such as shuttle mediation.
- Because every situation is different it is important to consider the different options available in addressing individual, family, and organizational goals.
Interpersonal conflicts between two people can be completed with a minimum of two to three sessions: a session for individual meetings and a second session for joint meeting. I advise my clients to keep open the possibility that extra time may be needed either to complete the joint session and finalize the agreement and/or to hold a review meeting within a few weeks or months’ time to assess how it is working.
Family or Team meditations, or particularly fraught and long-standing interpersonal conflicts, often need more time. Careful consideration will be given to the timing and configurations of planned interventions.
Agreements can be verbal or written depending on the needs of the parties. However, agreements are not the only goal of mediation. No agreement is better than one that does not address the main concerns and interests of the parties. The mediator will never pressure parties to reach an agreement but rather support all involved to reach a sustainable resolution that addresses their core interests.
Agreements reached in mediation are more likely to be sustainable because the people involved have control over them and agree to them voluntarily. If it becomes apparent during or after mediation that a formal process is more appropriate to the situation (engaging with attorneys, court filings) this can be pursued. In most cases however, mediation will deliver a sustainable and viable resolution acceptable to all parties. If parties are involved in court proceedings, agreements can be presented to the court for filing.