Family Mediation Update – January 2021
I hope that soon we can say goodbye to COVID but there will of course be a lot of work needed to remedy the short term and long term damage caused by this epidemic. I hope there are some benefits arising from the wonderful opportunity that so many parents have been able to grasp in finding ways of spending more time with their children and to be involved more and more in their growth and development. The expectation of offering vital home schooling has offered opportunities not only to parents but also to grandparents, friends and other family members to become more involved in our children’s development. It has presented a sharp learning curve for many of us to get to grips with “Zoom” and “Whatsapp” so we can share these vital tasks and to concentrate on the positive aspects of being able to help children when so many negative stories are circulating.
Sadly, the experience of COVID has been negative for some children who are unable to take advantage of virtual learning and, sadly, some children have been exposed to abuse and subsequent feelings of loss of self worth or even depression. Their childish sparkle is at risk of diminishing in spite of the hard work and goodwill of their individual parents, due to the loss of routine and structure offered by school in normal times.
Some difficult situations exist whereby those caring for children are simply unable to perform these additional tasks. Teachers are professionally trained and their job is made easier by the facilities offered to children to attend school to study and to socialise, away from their homes. School is the domain of children and I look forward to hearing that children are back taking advantage of that opportunity.
Home schooling requires time, patience and space at the very least. Modern life rarely presents such opportunities. Children are losing the value of friends who have otherwise offered respite from the arguments that frequently occur behind the closed doors of private homes and occur especially where there is a family breakdown. Children are drawn into those arguments and are even expected to take sides in a parental dispute that is none of their doing. Parental alienation is really harmful and will eventually destroy a loving relationship between a parent and a child if the practice is not stemmed.
When people are going through separation and divorce. It takes such strength and awareness of the risks on the part of children who may feel that their special needs for love and attention are no longer their parents’ priority. They may be feeling they have lost the joy of being children. Time, patience, warmth, kindness and understanding can become metered. This is not intended to make parents feel guilty. Nobody intends to forget to think how their children are feeling. Generally the negative feelings experienced by a separated parent are mirrored by their children. We also believe that most parents, Mums and Dads alike, genuinely believe that they are doing their absolute best and that they are right. This is ok provided the parents are able to continue to parent jointly and back each other up. This is difficult where there may be underlying trust issues and a sense of personal loss from a relationship break up. Where there is a lack of agreement over routine and structure, this is really troublesome for children who need cohesive parenting. They simply end up feeling confused and angry and ultimately very upset.
We all get it wrong at times; especially if things are not great at home and when home space is limited. Communication is tough and so easily misunderstood. I think we all feel vulnerable when everything has changed over the past year.
We need good listeners who are impartial and where there is honesty but no judgement. It appears that social media has become the greatest guide to life because people are not afraid of asking “Google” how to tackle things. Unlike the ignominy of asking the other parent for help or advice. Remember though that children still need you both to make decisions and to guide them. They must not become the advisors or the mediators and should not become your friends.
I believe that, with willingness for creativity and changing methods of teaching, that children will adapt very quickly towards finding their optimum way of learning. Many will catch up hopefully and this will highlight the areas of learning that do not work and identify new opportunities for those who are committed to succeed.
Parental support is crucial but hopefully the current education load placed upon parents will soon be passed back to those who are trained to complement the love and work put in by those at home.
I recall my parenting experiences, juggling the needs of children and managing virtually impossible situations of journey times and meeting work deadlines. Who took priority in these situations? I really don’t remember but we got by. I expect we just did our best and hoped our children would understand.
I am not a great fan of drama and find that Mediation offers a calm and objective approach for people to look for solutions together and to resolve disputes. The opportunities to consider options for change work well and people become more confident to discuss what they would hope to achieve without the fear of judgement or ridicule. Mediation is respectful and positive, especially if you know that a young person is going to benefit from this joint commitment to a new way of working together.
We need to reintroduce to children the opportunity, within appropriate boundaries, the excellence of parental guidance, sticking together and showing respect for a decision making process that can be improved and altered safely by parents.
I hope that children will continue to look for opportunity to learn from parents in terms of respect and compassion and belief that we are there for them. A physically divided family has great challenges to overcome and in those cases there is a need for reassurance for children to feel safe with both parents. Strong parenting can still happen and mediation can strengthen those skills. There is no reason for children to be tasked with the responsibility of becoming involved in adult disputes. The risk of not using mediation is that families become alienated and which then descends into a downward spiral if not tackled in the early stages of separation. The risks to children are great if they lose the chance to see their parents working together on their behalf and for their benefit and with one voice.
Tricia Muzalewski January 2021