Mediation within families

In family mediation it is tempting to think that once separating families have reached settlement agreements that the process is finished. For many, this will be just the start, as children’s needs change and develop, parents change jobs, relocate, meet new partners, new families evolve and existing families change shape. There is also the issue of the wider family and the ongoing relationships they have with grandchildren, nieces, nephews or even godchildren.

Other issues can involve wider issues such as the choice of schooling, funding of higher education and who attends the significant events that follow on such as graduation ceremonies, weddings and significant milestones such as 21st birthdays. For instance, mediators have been called in to establish boundaries when absent parents wish to re enter their children’s lives after a gap in contact.

Conflict is an unavoidable issue for all of us because as poet John Donne (1572-1631) famously wrote:

‘No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.’

We all interact with other human beings and we all deal with conflictual situations on a daily basis. How we do this and the consequences for us, and others, is the point at which it is worth considering how mediators can be helpful in the process.

The role of the mediator is to enable people to engage with these situations and to manage them in such a way as to get the best outcome for all concerned. When our emotions are entangled in an issue we often need help to unpack the core issues and look for solutions rather than getting stuck in the apportioning of blame.

If mediation is used wisely and well, it may be that the knowledge gained in the early stages will equip all parties for negotiating these rites of passage without help as they become used to facing up to the challenges they present. It is however, never a sign of weakness, to recognize there is a potential issue and to ask for help.