Take back your teenager! How parent/child mediation can repair your relationship.
If you have a child who is or is soon to be a teenager and you are wondering how you are going to survive “the teenage years” then you need to stop whatever else you are doing on your computer and give this article your full attention–right now!
Most of my friends are now parents of teenagers or, soon-to-be-teenagers. Some of them have sorrowfully expressed the view that their children have morphed from 12-year-old angels into 13-year old demons with whom they can no longer effectively communicate. They relate that shouting matches ending in slammed doors seem to be the norm rather than the exception. They have turned to me, the conflict resolution professional, to ask about tools which they can employ to deal with parent/child conflict at this stage of their children’s development and, of course, I have recommended parent/child mediation.
The children who participate in parent/child mediation are between 12-18 years old. The matters which typically engage the mediator’s attention are boyfriend/girlfriend issues, concerns about the friends with whom they are hanging out, management of household chores, difficulties in the relationship between step-parents and step-children, and discipline (including truancy).
Parent/child mediation, like any other kind of mediation, is a confidential process in which a neutral third party assists the parties in conflict to uncover the interests underlying their respective positions and then, to work collaboratively toward a solution that will satisfy as many of those interests as possible. However, unlike other kinds of mediation there is the obvious power imbalance. The mediator’s job is not to rebalance power since that would undermine the parents’ authority. Also, there is the danger that the mediation will focus only on the child’s behavior and the mediator must guard against that. Finally, arising out of the mediation, there may be the need for referral to family support services to address deeper issues such as alcoholism and domestic violence which may have been at the root of the conflict.
In some cases, the conflict between parent and child is so deep-seated that the parent believes that he can no longer effectively care for the child. In Trinidad & Tobago, and I daresay in some other Caribbean territories, there is legislation which provides that a parent who can prove to a Magistrate that his child is beyond his control, can request that the child be sent to an Orphanage and the Magistrate can commit the child to an Orphanage or place the child under the care of a Probation Officer or commit the child to the care of a relative or other fit person. Parent/child mediation can provide a relatively inexpensive method by which attempts can be made to resolve conflicts between parents and children before they have escalated to the point where the parent feels that he is no longer capable of dealing with a defiant child and cedes control of his child to the State.
As with other forms of mediation, not every parent/child conflict is amenable to resolution by this method. However, it is a tool that should be utilized more frequently since there are definite benefits to be derived.