Navigating a Traumatic Time: Navigating the unintended conflicts created by your parents’ will, trust, and/or other estate planning can be, for many, one of the hardest, most emotionally traumatic periods of life. A person can find himself or herself simultaneously coping with the grief and loss that attend the death of a parent, trying to process his or her emotional response to the way the estate is being distributed, struggling to sort out the time consuming and unfamiliar chores attending a death, and having to navigate both expected and unexpected conflicts with your siblings.
Complex Conflicts: And conflicts with siblings over estate distribution issues are rarely simple matters. If the parent suffered a prolonged illness prior to death or if some of the children do not live close by, the sibling who took on responsibility for taking care of the parent may feel unappreciated or unfairly treated. At the same time, siblings who live far away, may feel distrustful and out of the loop. Likewise, each sibling’s experience of his place or roll in the family may be re-engaged following the death of a parent and the pain of old, unresolved wounds may be renewed. Ineffective or unconstructive patterns of communication between family members can contribute a further layer of stress, misunderstanding and emotion. And then differences in each sibling’s standard of living, income, state of residence, family obligations, and future plans can make it hard for all to understand and approve of the way the others wish to handle their portion of the estate assets.
Hope Arrives: The good news is that simply identifying the complexity of such conflict opens a way to reduce the pain it causes. It does so by helping a person to immediately grasp the value of finding a conflict resolution process that respects and knows how to guide people through the conflict’s deeply human dynamics. When you are able to clearly describe the thing you are looking for in this way, you are on the verge of finding it. Suddenly, there is hope that there is a way to get your needs met and for healing in the family to occur.
If you come to this page feeling alone and overwhelmed because members of your family are in conflict over an issue, or several issues, related to the needs, interests and/or plans of a parent or elder relative, take heart. The truth is families everywhere are experiencing an increasing need for assistance in navigating conflict and the good news is that professional mediation is developing increasing capacity to meet that need.
Consider the challenging dynamics families face today. At every age, family members are confronted by obstacles, demands and opportunities never before encountered in such numbers:
Children are now raised in all kinds of family configurations and the traditional vision of the nuclear family no longer pertains in the majority of American households. Young adults take on staggering amounts of debt to fund college. Women are increasingly becoming the major income source for families of all kinds. Siblings are commonly dispersed from coast to coast and even internationally. And the elderly, who live on average thirty years longer than they did a century ago, are able to live longer with chronic diseases requiring various degrees of ongoing care. 43 million Americans — one quarter of all American households — provide unpaid care to adults over 50-years-old. It is a brave new world families face today. We deserve each other’s admiration for getting on as well as we do!
It’s a common joke these days, however, to refer to oneself and one’s family as dysfunctional, but we are not truly dysfunctional; we are simply struggling to cope with a surge of societal changes coming to a head with the aging of the baby boomer generation. So cut yourself and your family members a little slack. It’s no wonder if you are experiencing painful conflict. But now consider that elder mediation can offer you and your family a path to real relief.
Perhaps your family is trying to cope with one or more of the following issues that are among the most common sources of conflict among adult siblings and their parents:
These are tough challenges indeed. Fortunately, Family Tree Mediation’s elder mediation services can help in 10 important ways:
If you have questions you would like to ask about Family Tree Mediation’s elder mediation services or if you would like to schedule an appointment for mediation, you can call me at (650) 762-TREE [762-8733] or email me using the email form on our Contact Us page. One way or another, my wish for you is that help is on the way!
Communication Coaching and Mediation
Can Help Both to Improve Your Communication Process and
to Develop a Mutually Agreeable, Practical Vision for the Future
Day in day out, we spend our lives navigating and negotiating a wide variety of relationships. The work of being a good steward of our own welfare while also being a creative collaborator skilled in sharing life with others is a huge part of what life is about for social beings like ourselves.
This work is hugely rewarding, but can also be hugely challenging. And nowhere are the rewards and challenges greater than in the intimate partnership we share with our spouse or significant other.
Challenges come in all kinds, too. Some are unique events that require hard work, a clear sense of priorities, mutually devoted commitment, and some big decisions. Other challenges come in the form of ongoing relationship patterns that leave both parties feeling that there must be a better way to relate to each other. Still other challenges are a combination of stresses, unproductive communication reflexes, frustration and exhaustion that together threaten the admiration, passion, and joy shared between two lovers.
While the idea of couples counseling has entered the mainstream as a service that can be helpful to many, the value of communication coaching and couples mediation as processes that can help couples strengthen their relationship is still very new.
The fact is, however, that many relationships struggle with issues that do not require psychological therapy, but simply coaching in strategies and skills for better communication. As couples learn to forge new patters of communication, they acquire deeper insight and understanding both with regard to each other and to themselves. At once, they experience the relief of being freed from the frustration of not being heard and the heart-felt meaning that comes with connecting to aspects of their partner they previously had not accessed. As a result of these emotional shifts, individuals are able to notice needs, priorities and feelings within themselves they have not been able to give their attention to in the midst of the frustration, noise and conflict of their old communication patterns. In this way, over time, couples communication coaching can help each person to find more clarity, peace and presence both on their own and when they are with their love, and the couple can acquire skills and mutual understanding that will help them to build a stronger, more satisfying relationship and future together.
Additionally, it may be said that many issues couples face need more than therapy in the sense that they involve life-choice dilemmas that will only be resolved if the couple can come to an agreement about a plan of action after achieving better understanding and communication. Couples mediation offers couples not only communication coaching and a means for more constructive interaction, but also a practical focus on the concrete obstacles they want to overcome.
IF you are facing a divorce and have found your way to this web page, you deserve congratulations because you have taken the important step of deciding to inform yourself about your alternatives. One of the principle objectives of our first session together is to spend time discussing your available options, the pros and cons of each, and which alternative best suits your particular situation. In many cases, mediation is the most appropriate and constructive path through separation or divorce and into the next stage of your life. But what is mediation?
Mediation is a three-way communication process for talking about and negotiating difficult issues. The participants in a mediation are the two people who are affected by the difficult issue (here a divorce or separation) and a neutral third party known as a mediator who helps the couple to decide for themselves the terms of the agreement they need in order to proceed with their lives.
Several qualities distinguish mediation from litigation, arbitration or attorney represented negotiations.
Constructive Communication Facilitation: First, in mediation the parties receive valuable support from the mediator who creates a safe and attentive space and process for saying to the other and hearing from the other the difficult things that unspoken can prevent agreement or severely weaken the durability and lasting benefit of whatever agreement might be reached.
Party Control over Both the Process and the Outcome: Second, in mediation the parties are in complete control over whether an agreement is reached and what the terms of that agreement are if it is reached. Participation is entirely voluntary. Within wide boundaries of reasonable conduct, the parties retain complete control over both the direction of the process and the outcome.
Collaborative Process Discourages Bad Behavior: Third, as a collaborative process over which the parties retain control, mediation reduces or eliminates bad behaviors, such as concealing information, overstating and distorting one’s positions, and generally making life difficult for the other party. Such behavior is common in an adversarial process and degrades the quality of the outcome of such process.
Empowered by Personal Sense of Fairness: Fourth, although mediation involves discussion of the relevant legal standards, it empowers the parties to make their personal sense of fairness the most important factor in deciding the terms of their agreement. Such agreements are often more willingly performed by both sides. Agreements based primarily on the parties’ sense of personal fairness can also greatly assist the parties’ efforts to put the divorce behind them and move on with their lives.
Establishes New Patterns for the Future: Fifth, as a guide in navigating difficult conversations, the mediator helps the parties to let go of unconstructive communication patterns and to begin practicing new, empowering patterns that can help each party find more success in their future relationships.
Economical, Efficient and More Satisfying: Sixth, mediation is generally more economical, efficient and satisfying than an adversarial process. A litigated divorce, on average costs $20,000 per spouse and, in acrimonious cases, can cost much, much more. Litigated divorce also can take months and even years to complete and often requires the parties to adopt postures that hurt each other unwisely. By contrast a full mediation often takes between 5 to 10 two-hour sessions and costs between $4,000 and $10,000 to negotiate the agreement, file the necessary papers, and obtain a judgment. Of course, the amount of time required and the associated cost does depend upon the parties who remain in control of the process throughout. However, because mediation is a constructive communication process, time invested in it generally results in better understanding, a wiser, more durable agreement, and greater closure for both individuals.
WHEN going through the pain and emotions that accompany separation and divorce, it can be daunting to consider working with your spouse to find solutions to your conflicts that will meet both of your needs. The rewards for drawing upon your courage and undertaking the hard work of talking things out with the help of a mediator, however, can be substantial.
At Family Tree Mediation, I try to make it easy for you to consider the mediation process by making the first session free if you choose not to proceed with mediation. Even if you decide not to mediate with Family Tree Mediation, you will have gained at no expense more clarity about your options and what approach might work best for you. So the question I ask you to pose to yourself and your spouse is whether the benefits of mediation are worth exploring enough to make an initial risk-free appointment.
If the answer is yes, you can schedule your appointment by calling me at (650) 762-TREE [762-8733] or email me using the email form on our Contact Us page. Also, please call or email if you have any questions you would like to discuss.
Proprietor of Family Tree Mediation
Serving Redwood City, Atherton,
Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Mountain View,
Los Altos and the wider Peninsula &
San Francisco Bay Area.