Arguments, disputes, and conflicts can be characteristic for any family in spite of the number of members and character of their relations. Family-related conflicts are often based on the problems in communication and inability to solve the issue in a way which is appropriate for both parties.
Thus, family-related conflicts are disagreements in interests, values, and opinions, and they can be caused by misperceptions, misunderstandings, different visions of the same problem, and poor communication. There are many cases when people are unable to solve the conflict without references to independent mediators or legal services. The situation can be discussed as complicated when children are also involved in a family conflict.
That is why, families often need the qualified help provided by mediators in order to solve the conflict, meeting the interests of both parties and proposing the most appropriate decision. To be effective, the process of mediating family conflicts as a kind of intervention in a dispute should depend on such principles as the voluntary nature of the parties’ cooperation with mediators and the readiness of the parties to solve the problem successfully.
Mediation is a type of the outside help to resolve the conflict when it is necessary to present the independent point of view on the issue and regulate the decision-making process because of the parties’ inability to control the situation and make reasonable decisions. Family-related conflicts have definite characteristics which help to distinguish them among the other types of conflicts.
Family conflicts are based on such notions as intimacy, compulsion, and smallness (Folberg, Milne, & Salem, 2004). The problems in relations, financial issues, problems in understanding, and issues of children care can provoke the development of different family-related conflicts which main characteristics are the dependence on strong emotions and lack of effective communication.
To respond to family conflicts, mediators should overcome the parties’ strong emotions, providing the necessary emotional preparing for negotiations, resolve perceptual problems in order to form the independent vision of a question, to give the opportunity for parties to listen to each other in order to avoid the communication difficulties (Moore, 2003).
In spite of the fact mediators often do not have legal powers, they can help parties to take over the conflict in cooperation with lawyers in order to resolve all the emotional issues and provide them the opportunity to work only with legal aspects of the question. Thus, mediators are used to take over the process of resolving emotional tensions and misconceptions when the parties are involved in divorce negotiations (Coulson, 1996).
Many people who have to use the help of mediators to resolve their family-related conflicts are involved in the divorce process. Ann and Richard have been married for 9 years. Their child’s name was Tom, and the boy was 8 years old when his parents decided to divorce. The cause for divorce was not stated clearly because Ann and Richard could not overcome their emotions and provide reasonable decisions.
The spouses insisted to be divorced because of the emotional discrepancy and difficulties in communication. However, the main problem was in the fact that the parents could not resolve the issue of the child custody and residential questions.
Ann wanted Tom to live in her house when Richard also was ready to provide all the necessary conditions for Tom’s living in his apartment. Ann and Richard decided to use the help of mediators because they could not observe the problem impartially, and it was necessary to plan the work with lawyers without references to emotional issues.
Mediators can use general and contingent tactics, depending on the particular features of the conflict (Moore, 2003). In this case, the help of a mediator was necessary to overcome the emotional tension which prevented the parents from making reasonable decisions.
Having overcome the communication difficulties with reducing the tension and proposing Ann and Richard to participate in the open dialogue, the mediator helped the parents to agree to have the joint guardianship because of the necessity to provide the opportunities for Tom to communicate with both parents.
The demand for joint guardianship was the first point to discuss with lawyers. Nevertheless, the residential issue became controversial. The mediator proposed to choose the place for living according to Tom’s needs, paying attention to such aspects as life conditions, surroundings, location, and distance from school and develop the specific schedule of parent-child communication.
Divorces are usually based on many preceding conflicts, and the task of mediators is to regulate the consequences of these conflicts in order to meet the interests of both parties and children. Theory of mediating family conflicts can be successfully used to overcome controversial aspects of the problem when mediators choose the most effective practice with references to the specific features of the conflict.
Thus, in this case, the mediator reduced the emotional tension between the parents, made the accents on cooperation to meet the child’s needs, presented the advantages of joint guardianship as the form of child custody, and proposed the variants to solve the residential problem with reference to planning the effective schedule.
However, in spite of the fact theory of mediation and the practical methods can be successfully used to overcome a conflict, it is difficult to predict it with the help of these methods because they are developed to work with a conflict as a process and to take over its consequences.
Coulson, R. (1996). Family mediation: Managing conflict, resolving disputes. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Folberg, J., Milne, A. L., & Salem, P. (2004). Divorce and family mediation: Models, techniques, and applications. USA: Guilford Press.
Moore, C. W. (2003). The mediation process: Practical strategies for resolving conflict. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.