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Family Tree Mediation Blog - Mediating All Family Disputes - Divorce to Estate
Thursday, 13 August 2015 16:49

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Hank Edson Family Tree Mediation 72dpiHank Edson, J.D.                CALL: (650) 762-8733

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. 

Published in Contact Us
Tuesday, 08 May 2012 03:29

Conflict Coaching for Individuals

Conflict Coaching for Individuals: The Initiative of a Single Person Can Make the Difference!

conflict coaching at family tree mediation

Are you looking for a way to better handle conflict with your spouse, a close friend or a colleague at work? Do you have an issue with your spouse that you would like to mediate, but your spouse refuses to participate? Would you simply like to strengthen your ability to stand up for yourself while still respecting and caring for others?

If so, Family Tree Mediation’s conflict coaching service may be right for you. While it is always a great opportunity when two parties in conflict are willing to work on improving the way they communicate, especially with the assistance of a mediator, a relationship can be greatly improved on the initiative of just one person.

In the past four decades, a great deal has been learned about the nature of conflict, the communication patterns that help individuals navigate such conflict, and those that don’t. We have greatly increased our awareness of the way that culture, emotion, information, past experience, worldviews, and communication models complicate our participation in conflict. In the heat of the moment, however, we rarely have the capacity to make effective use of this understanding, if we are fortunate enough to have obtained it. We find ourselves reacting according to the models for dealing with conflict we learned long ago and now apply unconsciously.

That’s why conflict coaching can be so helpful. Breaking old patterns and learning to consciously and effortlessly apply new ones takes practice. When one person in a relationship begins practicing using more productive communication tools in conflict, the old pattern of exchange is no longer the same, space is created, the temperature cools, and connections are made. Each small adjustment in the exchange is assisted by other small adjustments. As with the tumblers in a lock mechanism, it can be a wonder to witness how these little pins can open a door that kept two people from really hearing and appreciating each other’s experience, needs, and intentions.

Friday, 27 April 2012 03:20

Returning Graduate

When Recent Graduates Return to Live at Home

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Amid hard economic times, the skyrocketing burdens of college loans, and an inaccessible housing market, there is a growing trend increasingly reported in the news of adult children moving back in with their parents following graduation from college. No doubt for many parents and many young adult children, this new living dynamic is stressful and even painful.

We have all grown up with an expectation of increasing prosperity from generation to generation and for many moving out on one’s own is an important symbol signifying that that expectation of prosperity is on its way to being fulfilled. The symbolic disappointment of that expectation inspires all kinds of different emotional responses from both parents and young adult children.

In addition to the emotions that attend a graduate’s moving back in with his or her parents are a host of practical issues relating to any household. How do the housing costs get covered? How does the home get cleaned? What impact do visitors have on the other members of the household? How do people communicate about important household needs? How much privacy do household members get? The list of such questions that may come up is a long one.

Often attending the practical aspects of these questions is a diverse range of value judgments, personal experiences, relationship histories, and awkwardness before uncharted territory that together result in very different perceptions on any given issue.

With all of these factors at play at once, it’s understandable if the peace and contentment of home has been shaken.

The Wisdom of Proactive Estate Planning in Collaboration with Family Beneficiaries

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A small minority of parents involve their children in their estate planning process. The reasons for this fact are understandable, but not sufficiently well founded to make this trend a smart one.

Sources of the Traditional Route to Estate Planning

Often, the estate planning process is initiated while the children are still too young to be able to meaningfully contribute understanding of how the estate plan might best meet their needs. For a time, it is true, the parents know best.

In addition, people often feel reasonably well justified holding the view that the fruit of their life’s labors is theirs to do with as they please. The children should appreciate the gifts they receive, not seek to tell the parents how to make them.

And then, the habit and, indeed, ethics of legal practice have long required avoiding representing multiple interests. An estate planner serves the individual seeking a plan for distributing his or her estate, not the estate’s beneficiaries. The inertia of habit and the simplicity of serving a single interest funnels estate planning out of earshot of the children in a way that reinforces a sense that the estate plan is none of their business.

There is no need to quarrel with the reasons that estate beneficiaries are not allowed or invited to participate in the estate planning process. All of these reasons can be legitimate and still fail to serve the real interests of the individual that needs a plan for distribution of his or her estate among his or her heirs and beneficiaries. And the reason the traditional way of doing estate planning often fails to achieve its desired result is simple: it assumes that the parties receiving the estate gifts will embrace the estate plan without having been involved in its creation. This is an unwise assumption.

Just think of how often much smaller gift giving goes awry. Think of the long return lines in the department stores the day after the Christmas holiday, for example. And this is after Santa has gone out of his way to invite children to write him letters telling him what they want!

Published in Estate Mediation
Tuesday, 10 April 2012 23:58

Kids, Parents & Schools

Making the Most of Everyone's Investment in Student Wellbeing and Development

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Growing up involves a lot of challenges and a lot of emotion for everyone involved. As a parent, as a former elementary and middle school teacher, and as a mediator, I appreciate how difficult it can be to have conversations about behavior, choices, needs, family decisions and conditions at school. From a mediator’s perspective, what evokes both compassion and hope is the good heart of each that often gets dismissed amid the vulnerability and defensiveness each person feels with so much at stake. It is painful to see such goodness overlooked in the midst of conflict and emotion, but it is hopeful to know that that goodness is there and is a certain foundation upon which to build a collaboration that will respect everyone’s needs.

Good Hearts

The student’s heart, no matter what behavior is manifesting, is still full of youthful goodwill and the needs of innocence. The parent’s heart is self-sacrificing, protective, wise and nurturing—humanity at its best and most vulnerable. The educator’s heart shares these qualities in a democratic, public service-oriented way that is heroic in its civic devotion, but that is also constrained by the requirements and realities of professional and institutional structures. Among the unique qualities student, parent and teacher or administrator each possess, there are many shared interests and yet many different ones too.

A Different, Better Conversation Is Possible

If each person affected by a given concern or involved in a given conflict is able to get down to their core needs, a completely different type of discussion is possible than the one accompanied by tensed jaws, distrustful words muttered under one’s breath and angry words flung in raised voices. A conversation is possible where each participant is able to acknowledge the legitimacy of the others’ needs and concerns, identify the interests shared, and think about ways to meet all needs, even the ones that conflict. In this place, there is a lot more room to find creative solutions to problems that in the other, triggered conversation seemed non-existent.

Three Challenges

Given the daily interactions and nature of the relationships between kids, parents and schools, however, it’s no wonder that adults sometimes struggle in their efforts to help the student find the comfort, self-awareness and courage to identify and speak his or her most important needs.

Helping parents to establish the inward composure to identify and speak their most important needs is often difficult too. On one hand, children are experts at pushing buttons, as well as at finding ways to call into question one parenting skills. On the other hand, trusting your child and his or her development to the authority and judgment of a school can be extremely disquieting especially when one feels left out of the loop and that the choices made at school go against one’s natural instincts.

And teachers and administrators at school are also in a highly vulnerable situation that makes it hard for them to quiet their fears and focus on what needs and interests, if met, would make a world of difference. Teachers, after all, get their buttons pushed and skills called into question, not just by one, two, or a few children, but by a room full of them, each additional student multiplying the challenges involved exponentially. While the teacher’s good heart is bravely open to such prodding, professional and economic risks also attend their effort to serve the individual development of each and every child in their care. It’s not easy being answerable to the student, the student’s parents, and the school administration.

10 Ways Mediation Can Help:

Given these dynamics, a neutral, third-party mediator with no investment in the issue at hand can provide valuable assistance in facilitating a conversation about a child’s behavior, development and wellbeing in ten important ways:

  1. By creating and holding a caring, attentive and inquiring communication space where all feel equally respected, free and encouraged to speak their truth in a confidential setting;
  2. By facilitating a multi-party communication process aimed at giving each participant deeper satisfaction that he or she really has been heard and understood;
  3. By identifying and distinguishing between the different positions held by respective participants and the core needs those positions are intended to satisfy;
  4. By facilitating exploration of each others’ core needs as a means for creating more opportunity for creative solutions that address the diverse range of interests felt among the different participants;
  5. By identifying and discussing different standards and processes for evaluating the merit of proposed solutions;
  6. By helping the participants to apply those standards as a means for voluntarily coming to and refining an agreement on a plan for addressing the issues at hand;
  7. By facilitating the development of a plan for implementing the solutions agreed upon;
  8. By assisting the participants in formalizing the agreement to the degree desired;
  9. By fostering an environment in which students, parents and children have the opportunity to heal any wounds that have occurred, apologize for any past wrongs or regrets, and overcome relationship patterns that do not serve a useful purpose;
  10. And by creating an opportunity for training and practice in more constructive communication patterns that will serve the home and school well when faced with other difficult issues in the future.

Importantly, issues concerning the behavior, development and wellbeing of a child come in all shapes and sizes, some involving only a child and his or her parents, some involving only a child’s parents and a school’s administration, some involving parents of different families, etc. Consider the following list of potential issues that families sometimes find get caught up in unproductive, painful communication patterns. Discussions over:

Grades Hostile speech to parents Peer pressure Individualization to child’s educational needs Chores Divorce Drugs and alcohol School discipline Conflict with a teacher Conflict with administration Curfew Driving Bullying Social media bullying Extracurricular obligations Friends Jobs Parental remarriage/parental dating Moving the family $1000+ Proms

Mediation is a flexible tool that can be modified and applied in many contexts. Of course, some issues that may come up, such as eating disorders, drug addiction, or depression, are not as much about a failure to communicate about a conflict as they are about deeper mental health issues that require other expertise than a mediator offers. If you have questions about whether mediation might be suitable and helpful in resolving an issue concerning a child’s behavior, development or wellbeing 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.

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Hank Edson Family Tree Mediation 72dpiHank Edson, J.D.        CALL: (650) 762-8733

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. 

Tuesday, 10 April 2012 23:56

Transition to Independence

The Role of Communication/Education Coaching
in Helping Families Make the Most of College

sam-35These days, the cost of higher education is soaring higher and higher indeed. Just to get into a good college, increasingly large numbers of students are relying on SAT and Achievement Test preparatory courses at considerable expense. Many families take the additional step of hiring a consultant to help their child put together the strongest possible college application packet.And before the application stage, substantial investments are also frequently made in athletics coaches, music teachers, educational camps and programs outside of school, and a host of other opportunities aimed at developing the interests and talents of their maturing children. Thus, in addition to the obvious emotional investment families have in seeing their young adults find their way happily into the world, there is also an astounding financial investment as well.

In offering communication facilitation and education coaching services to families with young adults in the midst of their transition to independence, Family Tree Mediation seeks to help young adults and the families who support them to make the most of the opportunity of college and to begin their adult life well equipped to navigate their own pursuit of happiness through whatever challenges may come.

Here’s why communication/education coaching for the whole family during a young adult’s transition to independence is worth your consideration.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012 23:54

Facilitated Family Meetings

Helping You Navigate Difficult, but Important Topics

Facilitated Family Meetings at Family Tree Mediation

A few examples: When might a mediator be able to help your family navigate a difficult, but important topic?  Answering this question is easier with the help of a few examples. Consider the following scenarios: 

  1. The once warm relationships shared between four siblings has grown closed and distant due to a combination of resentment harbored by one against another, immoderate alcohol use by a third, and the different places they live and different wealth each has achieved. However, their parent’s 50th wedding anniversary brings them all together and based on the encouragement of their parents there is the opportunity for the brothers and sisters to talk about what has kept them apart…
     
  2. A family with two boys, one in high school and one in junior high, is trying to cope with the fact that the older boy is suddenly completely consumed with his new girl friend, his school work is slipping, and attempts by his parents to intervene have been met with anger andOn top of this, the prom is coming up and his parents are shocked that kids are spending over $1000 for one night at a dance.  Meanwhile, their younger son, who looks up to his brother, is just beginning to go to dances.  His parents are concerned that in experimenting with his identity, he will rush into behavior modeled after his brother in a way that will create problems.  The parents are struggling to engage their children effectively in a conversation about their concerns…
     
  3. A divorced family of two households must make a plan for adjusting to the fact that one parent, after several years, is compelled by economic necessity to take a job in anotherBoth parents agree that the children are old enough to best represent their own needs with regard to certain aspects of the decisions that must be made.  Yet both parents also have needs of their own that they agree do not have to be neglected in the face of the needs of the children.  There is a spirit of cooperation, but two new spouses, a step sister in one household and a half-brother in the other.  Making the necessary adjustments won’t be easy…

The thing that these three scenarios share most in common is that each involves a network of intersecting family relationship and a sense that the wellbeing of one or more loved ones is at risk.  In addition, there is an implicit question whether the family members will be able to communicate effectively about the issues at hand in order to adequately care for each others’ wellbeing and the family bonds they all share.

The question Family Tree Mediation asks you to consider is this:

Can a skilled and neutral, third party mediator help your family take care of each other, navigate difficult transitions, repair old rifts, and/or otherwise help you to improve the quality of your communication and relationship patterns?

For many, mediation is a legal word that brings to mind divorce settlements, testamentary challenges, or business breach of contract suits.  This understanding is rapidly changing, however, as a result of four decades of intense activity and growth in the mediation field.  During this time, mediators and researchers have developed and proven many new communication tools that are not necessarily legal in nature, but are universal to the types of conversations we have every day, all day long. Appreciation has also grown for the wide applicability of mediation and the unique function a neutral, outside party can play in structuring and facilitating a conversation that would otherwise be hard to free from negative emotion.

Here are ten ways that Family Tree Mediation can help your family navigate difficult conversations and decisions by facilitating your family meeting:

  1. By creating and holding a caring, attentive and inquiring communication space where you can all feel equally respected, free and encouraged to speak your truth in a confidential setting;
  2. By facilitating a multi-party communication process aimed at giving each family member deeper satisfaction that he or she really has been heard and understood;
  3. By identifying and distinguishing between the different positions held by respective family members and the core needs those positions are intended to satisfy;
  4. By facilitating exploration of each others’ core needs as a means for creating more opportunity for creative solutions that address the diverse range of interests represented among the whole family;
  5. By identifying and discussing different standards and processes for evaluating the merit of proposed solutions;
  6. By helping the family to apply those standards as a means for voluntarily coming to and refining an agreement on a plan for addressing the issues at hand;
  7. By facilitating the development of a plan for implementing the solutions agreed upon;
  8. By assisting the family in formalizing the agreement if desired;
  9. By fostering an environment in which family members have the opportunity to heal old wounds, apologize for any past wrongs or regrets, and overcome childhood or other patterns that no longer serve a useful purpose;
  10. And by creating an opportunity for training and practice in more constructive communication patterns that will serve the family well when faced with other difficult issues in the future.

If you have questions you would like to ask about Family Tree Mediation’s family meeting facilitation services or if you would like to schedule an appointment, you can call 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.

 

box-tr-green

Hank Edson Family Tree Mediation 72dpiHank Edson, J.D.          CALL: (650) 762-8733

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. 

Tuesday, 10 April 2012 23:51

Estate Mediation

A Better Process for Resolving Family Disputes
Relating to the Distribution of the Parents' Estate

Estate Dispute Mediation is a smart way to go.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.

Published in Estate Mediation
Tuesday, 10 April 2012 23:47

Elder Mediation

Families Facing New Challenges
Find Relief in Elder Mediation

Elder Mediation JWIf 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:

  • The need to provide varying levels of care for elder family members;
  • The need to achieve cooperation and consensus around an elder family member’s ability to maintain independence, a driver’s license, and control over their finances;
  • The need to adapt to communication and emotional challenges associated with degraded mental capacity resulting from Alzheimer’s Disease or other related diseases;
  • The need to overcome and/or compensate for obstacles created by the geographic dispersion and infrequent communication of siblings;
  • The need to move beyond old relationship patterns and to heal old wounds among siblings and between parents and their adult children.
  • The need to overcome discomfort surrounding the issue of death in order to anticipate each family member’s core needs in proactively planning the distribution of the parents’ estate;
  • The need to foster a means of discussing the way sibling wealth disparity affects the process of making decisions as a family.

These are tough challenges indeed.  Fortunately, Family Tree Mediation’s elder mediation services can help in 10 important ways:

  1. By creating and holding a caring, attentive and inquiring communication space where you can all feel equally respected, free and encouraged to speak your truth;
  2. By facilitating a multi-party communication process aimed at giving each family member deeper satisfaction that he or she really has been heard and understood;
  3. By identifying and distinguishing between the different positions held by respective family members and the core needs those positions are intended to satisfy;
  4. By facilitating exploration of each other’s core needs as a means for creating more opportunity for creative solutions that address the diverse range of interests represented among the whole family;
  5. By identifying and discussing different standards and processes for evaluating the merit of proposed solutions;
  6. By helping the family to apply those standards as a means for coming to and refining an agreement on a plan for addressing the issues at hand;
  7. By facilitating the development of a plan for implementing the solutions agreed upon;
  8. By assisting the family in formalizing the agreement to the degree desired;
  9. By fostering an environment in which family members have the opportunity to heal old wounds, apologize for any past wrongs or regrets, and overcome childhood or other patterns that no longer serve a useful purpose;
  10. And by creating an opportunity for training and practice in more constructive communication patterns that will serve the family well when faced with other difficult issues in the future.

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!

Published in Elder Mediation
Tuesday, 10 April 2012 23:19

Couples Work

Couples Work

Couples Mediation and Communication at Family Tree Mediation

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.

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