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Parent Child Mediation

by Jim Eisele
March 2003
Good communication among family members is an extremely important part of a psychologically healthy family. Lack of good communication can be extremely detrimental to a family. When communication breaks down, especially between a parent and their child, troublesome situations may arise. What can be done to repair and resolve these situations? Parent/child mediation may be the resolution.

Communication among family members is a bit like a vehicle. When the vehicle is working properly and operating smoothly, everything is wonderful and trouble-free. Additionally, it can only stay trouble-free with ongoing maintenance like oil changes and tune-ups. However, when the vehicle starts to break down, problems may arise. If the problems are not fixed, it may get worse, and eventually it will break down completely. When the vehicle breaks down, it may cause other problems such as getting to work, or getting the children to soccer practice. With communication, when it is working properly, everything seems to be great. Family members are happy and life is good. But as soon as that communication breaks down, that’s when the problems begin. Communication must also be maintained in order to keep things going in the right direction.

As technology progresses, communication among family members can now take place in an instant with the push of a single button on a cell phone, the composition of an email, or even an “instant message” on a computer. But do these modes of communication provide a family relationship with the necessary components to grow and flourish? I believe they do not. These new modes of communication are important in certain situations, but should not take the place of face-to-face personal interaction. I believe daily face-to-face interaction is a key to maintaining good communication in the family.

The following is an example of what poor communication in a family might look like: Joey and his parents sat down when he turned 13 to go over rules regarding his curfew. Joey and his parents were satisfied with the 11:00 PM curfew. They also talked about his allowance, and several other issues. Many months went by, and pretty soon, Joey would come home and say a few words to his mom as he passed through the kitchen on the way to his bedroom. He would spend the rest of the afternoon in his room, listening to music, playing video games, and watching television. When it was time for dinner, he joined his parents, but did not say much, even when prompted by his parents. After dinner he again retreated to his room, but this time to talk on the phone to find out what his friends’ plans might be for the evening. Joey would then walk out the door, yelling on the way out “I’m going to Bill’s”. His dad barely had time to give the instructions “be back before curfew”.

The preceding is an example of what poor communication may look like, but an example of the result of poor communication might be: That same night, it was midnight, and Joey was not home. It was one hour past curfew, and his parents had been trying to contact him on his cell phone, but he did not answer. There was no answer at Bill’s house where Joey said he would be. The parents became worried and angry that Joey has defied their authority. At 12:45 AM, Joey arrived home, and had every excuse why he was not home on time and why he did not call. An argument between Joey and his father ensued, and both were yelling loudly at each other. The subject of the argument was: Joey believed his curfew was too early.

Even though Joey and his parents had communicated well regarding the curfew when he first became a teenager, and had mutually agreed upon a time, Joey still had problems with the curfew being too early. It is an example of communication running smoothly, and then over time, the communication had broke down and was not fixed. As a result, Joey broke his curfew and their agreement. This is the type situation that might warrant a mediation between Joey and his parents. And while they were mediating that dispute, they might also talk about other issues such as allowance and other expectations. I’ll agree, this might sound a little like overkill, but if your child gets to a point where they are not communicating with you and defying your authority, and the child just simply won’t listen, mediation might be the only hope.

Parent/child mediation is a fairly new area for mediators. In my perusal of many different websites of mediators across the country, many offer this type of service. I was unable to readily find scientific information on this specific topic, which is not to say it does not exist. However, I suspect parent/child mediation is an area that may the subject of scientific research in the future.