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Mediation creates a safe haven for families

The Whatcom DRC receives a call for help from a parent who wants to explore whether parent-teen mediation might be a good fit for her and her husband to address anger issues with their depressed, pre-teen daughter. Here’s their story.


Childhood trauma has lasting effects

Susan explained on the call to Whatcom DRC that her daughter Renee had grown up under stressful circumstances. Susan was now remarried to Rob, but Renee’s biological father had been both mentally and physically abusive towards both Renee and herself.

Susan described her daughter as a bright 12-year-old who loves school and sports and has a few close friends; however, the trauma from her childhood was having some lasting effects—most noticeably in Renee’s levels of anxiety and depression and in her expression of anger, particularly at home. When DRC staff spoke to Renee, she said that she and her mom mostly got along, but that she felt frustrated when her mom gave her advice rather than really listening. She said she did sometimes blow up at her mom, usually in response to her mom’s questions about what was wrong, and how they should fix it. Renee wanted more time to be able to cool off. Additionally, the family needed to make some decisions around what kind of contact (if any) Renee would have with her biological father.

Mediation helps the family open up

When the family came together for the mediation they began to open up and shared their feelings and perspectives around the conflict. Susan acknowledged that her personality type is very different from her daughter’s. Rob talked about his hope of having a positive relationship with both Susan and Renee, but that with his quiet manner he needed more time to think before responding. Rob communicated that he felt ignored or overridden at times. Renee talked about her memories of spending time camping and four-wheeling and how she enjoyed hanging out with her stepfather and his family. The family decided to create a household chore poster so that it would be easy to see what chores had been done and what had yet to be accomplished. They also set aside one hour a week for positive family “hang-out” time, and decided on language to use when things were got heated, such as asking for a “time out” or “chill out,” so everyone would have a chance to think before reacting.

With the safe space created in the mediation, Renee was also able to talk about the anxiety and guilt she felt about her father—she had seen him overdose once and was terrified that he might die. She also felt a huge burden of responsibility for his striving to overcome his addiction for her sake. Susan said she understood Renee’s fear and anxiety and reminded her daughter that addiction is hard to break and that she wasn’t ever to blame for her dad’s choices and struggles.

After their first session, Susan called the DRC to say that the mediation had really helped and that she and Renee had decided to make changes to the structure and duration of Renee’s visits with her father to ensure she felt safe and that the visits were healthy.

If you have a challenging family issue, call your nearest DRC!

The mediation process is repeated thousands of times each year at DRCs throughout Washington. If you’re facing a challenging family issue call your local DRC and get on a path to peace.


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