Kristi Nelson

For Life's Family Disputes, Mediation Could Help

Family mediation can possibly help your family overcome a conflict

Most people have heard about using a mediator for legal disputes, like divorce, child custody or even work disputes.

But what about using a mediator to iron over problems between siblings? Or between parents and children?

It's happening.

Mediation is an option that could possibly lead to a solution and an agreement in less time than family therapy -- if they situation fits -- and can cost a lot less, too.

It worked for Terrell Weatherl and her daughter, Elessa Boiko.

They sought help when they feared their at-home disputes could strain their relationship for good.

They each battled for control. Weatherl had the concerns of many parents, like wanting her daughter to check in more often to make sure she was safe.

"It feels very uncomfortable when I'm trying to dictate what she's doing or at least have more control over her in a situation and she is pulling away in a way that she's not agreeing," Weatherl said.

And Boiko wanted more freedom and to make her own, adult, decisions.

"I would feel like -- she's maybe overreacting," Boiko said. "Or, 'Why can't I drive the car right now?'"

They argued, with struggles over where Boiko would go to school or work and more.

"I think we felt like we were at an impasse," Weatherl said, "And we were living in the same very close quarters. And we just didn't want to leave it that way."

They reached out to mediator Melanie Grimes for help. Grimes said mediation is different from family counseling.

"People know that counseling is available for families that are going through conflict, but what mediation does differently is really, in short order, they can come to an agreement, it's not really a drawn out process at all," Grimes said.

"Mediation offers something completely different," she said. "It is quick, it's a two or three hour session, it's cost effective, and no one is being analyzed."

Grimes said she deals with a lot of parents who are having conflict with adult children living at home. For example, a child who left college and moved back home without a plan. Or she can help broker deals with siblings over how to care for an aging parent.

"My job is to remain a neutral -- that's what makes it work," Grimes said. "I don't have a stake in the game -- ever. So, I'm just there to help facilitate them and their creativity in coming up with an agreement."

"The word mediator really made sense in my mind," Elessa said. "That there's going to be somebody that will kind of be able to say, 'Hey, you're being crazy,' or, 'This is maybe not the way you should approach this.'"

In just a couple of sessions, Grimes, Weatherl and Boiko reached a written agreement; things they would do to help the other, including house rules and agreements about chores and everything else that was in dispute.

And they agreed their relationship has been better since the agreement.

"She's one of the people I talk to every day, and I love her and I love that," Boiko said.

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