The age difference between the members of a family can lead to conflicts of various kinds. Family mediation is a recommended tool by UNAF Spain (COFACE member) to manage and solve intergenerational issues. . Especially adolescence is one of the stages of life during which the age gap is felt more intensely and which produces more conflicts within families. This can often be explained through the change of roles and functions within the unit of a family which adapt to the growing up of children which goes hand in hand with the wish of more distance from family life. How does meditation work and what is the way forward to overcome family conflicts?
One key suggestion is to adapt home rules to the capabilities and autonomy of teenagers, as well as setting limits through negotiation and dialogue. Parents need to address the autonomy vs. limits dilemma, and gradually allow more independence in exchange for more responsibilities.
Puberty is a challenge for all families and a restructuring of the family environment, in which mediation can facilitate dialogue, non-reactive listening and empathy between parents and teenagers, can allow all members of the family to overcome any conflicts in their relationship in a positive and effective way.
“Adolescents and parents often misinterpret each other’s reactions, interactions and emotions. Translating their meaning helps them have kinder visions of each other’, explains Gregorio Gullón, responsible for Mediation in families with adolescents in UNAF Spain.
In UNAF’s service, aimed at families with adolescents between 12 and 19 years old, ”we try to broaden parents’ understanding of life-cycle changes, we help adolescents take responsibility for their own actions, we change the deficit view on adolescents for a view of enablement, and we promote dialogue and joint problem solving as a way of addressing differences’, says Gullón.
How does intergenerational mediation work?
Intergenerational mediation is a structured process, led by a professional mediator and developed in regular sessions. The stages of the mediation process are:
- Telephone interview: When a parent demands the service, the first step is to go through a phone interview, in which he or she is informed about the general characteristics of the mediation service. During this interview UNAF also collects data to create a “data sheet” in order to start the process.
- Informative session: This is the first direct contact between all parties. It serves as an introduction to the process, establishes ground rules, goals and objectives of the mediation. Further, the methodology, the duration of the process, the role of the mediator, the commitments required, the limitations, etc. will also be explained. During this stage, the mediator also obtains information about the parties’ interests, expectations and needs. This informative session usually leads to a commitment to continue the mediation process.
- Pre-mediation phase: The mediator corroborates whether or not the family conflicts can be addressed through mediation. The mediator also obtains relevant information on family dynamics, the type of communication between family members, the establishment of rules, the distribution of roles and tasks, etc.
- Mediation phase: The ultimate goal of this phase is to obtain agreements between parents and siblings which enable a more peaceful coexistence for them all. The mediator does not only lead the process, but, using different techniques and strategies, he or she helps the participants to identify and define the points of agreement and disagreement, express and listen to the different points of view and agree on new, more positive and effective solutions for present and future problems.
- Evaluation and monitoring: Once the process is completed, the family is invited to attend one or more follow-up sessions in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention, give answers to any possible questions or difficulties that arise, and reinforce the positive results of the outcome of the mediation.
Mediation with adult children and aging members is also necessary
Another stage of conflict in intergenerational relationships is old age. On many occasions, adult sons and daughters have a feeling of guilt when having to make decisions about their dependent parents.
The reversal of roles in families due to aging members also leads to rivalries or conflicts between siblings, which can also be addressed through family mediation in order to promote more positive relationships between brothers and sisters.
In UNAF Spain we demand that mediation with older people is increasingly necessary, due to the progressive aging of Spanish (and European) population, and the increase in numbers of old age dependents. However, governments are slow to answer this demand through Europe, and is should be addressed as an urgent answer to the aging of the population and the impact on domestic economy of having old age dependents. Mediation helps families in this phase of transition and it should be offered by public institutions within a package of measures to address this issue.
More public support for family mediation
UNAF demands more support and funding by government and public institutions for family mediation, which is an investment in the well-being of families.
More information here: https://unaf.org/mediacion-familiar/