The Experienced Mediator’s Blog – 13th August 2014
Just a few days now before a 10 day holiday (the first in over 12 months) time briefly to reflect on the last 12 months and one particular area of challenge.
Separating Parent from Spouse Roles
Within the family there are two major roles, one of spouse and the other of being a parent. Ideally we act and behave differently as parents and that of spouse and should be able to keep those two roles separate. A major cause of conflict over children however is the inability of spouses to keep those roles separate. I so often hear a hurt mum saying of the other parent, “he left us”. Of course this is not actually correct; he left the spouse but in most cases desperately wants to retain his relationship with his children.
I guess as counsellors you must spend much time trying to unravel those two roles. I try very early on in a mediation session to get both parents to comment on the other’s good parenting skills. I am very quick to get those words up on the flip chart as quickly as possible. I try to move the parents forward by using small steps to encourage stability and much needed communication between them. Couples can’t keep coming to counselling or mediation forever and a day and do have to somehow move forward themselves.
The Sound of Silence
This is not just a wonderful Simon and Garfunkel song from the past but a much needed use of time for a Mediator on holiday to relax and recharge batteries. I find that walking in isolated places and in forests under the cover of trees is somehow very restorative. I have come to learn that there is a real place for silence in mediation and the managing of the silence is a real Mediator’s skill. Silence can be turned into communication. It is often better to let the clients determine when to break the silence. It can give headroom for everyone just to sit back and think before speaking.
It is surprising how often, if there is an impasse in negotiations, be it children or finance, that by actually slowing the mediation and giving gaps, whether it is pouring a drink, opening a window or moving around the room, can affect mood and attitudes in very positive ways.
The downside of going on holiday is all the work that you have to do before you go. I guess therefore that I am going to bring this blog to an end. If any of you see me walking the north Norfolk coastal path please do break the silence!