This months blog has been written by Peter O’Reilly, our Mediation Officer
So, 2022 is here and we are looking forward to continuing to provide our mediation support to families. Our three volunteer mediators and myself are all looking forward to being allowed to assist as teenagers and parents / carers work together to find better ways of dealing with the issues they face.
As the new year begins, as usual we tend to look back a bit and notice what has been happening. Last year, there was the highest number of referrals we have ever had and three themes featured a lot in the referrals we received; ‘mental health’, ‘tensions’ and ‘breakdown’ (in relations). This will not be any great surprise, I suspect, for we all knew that what has happened in our society over the last years would have a deep impact on both our youth and their parents.
One of the great honours we had was to be invited, at the beginning of this school year, to come alongside Sixth Form students in the local High School. We have been present one day a week to allow them to talk about the issues they are dealing with; anxiety, panic attacks, struggling to motivate themselves for study, inhibitions in their ability to socially interact, even with peers, and self-harm with suicidal thoughts. All this, alongside the normal pangs of teenage development. Mainly, we listen. “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity” (Simone Weil) is the only quotation on the wall in our mediation room. We attend to the teenagers. Of course, as appropriate, we offer coping strategies or signpost to other professional help. However, mainly, they want to be listened to.
The reason we were asked to do this was, I believe, because the school knew how we attend to teenagers; respectfully, non-judgementally and with care. That is what we look forward to doing in the year ahead. For, in the mediation space, it is primarily attention – modelled by the mediators and encouraged in both the parents and children – that shifts the dynamics and empowers the participants to find better ways of communicating, behaving and relating. It is fascinating to watch as parents, in particular, shift from knowing it all (because they’ve ‘heard it all before’) and being frustrated at the stubbornness of the teenager, to being curious about what it is like for their daughter / son? It is a precious thing to witness when the teenager experiences now, in this room, being loved by the parent they had begun to experience as only controlling, judgemental and uncaring.
In many ways the year ahead will demand, I think, more of the same; just much more of it!
Let me share a lovely and very unusual occurrence from last week. On late Friday afternoon I got a phone call from a mother I had worked with, finishing two years ago, and whose son had struggled with identity and self-esteem. She was simply calling to let me know how well her son had done in his exams (last August) and how much he was enjoying the job he was now in. I spoke with the now eighteen-year-old (who had been referred as an ‘aggressive’ fourteen-year-old) and he was so proud of and happy at how things had worked out.
Why they phoned at this time, I’m not sure. But, apart from the real joy in being able to celebrate with both of them how well he had done, what was so uplifting was that they had thought, two years on, of letting me know. I said that this was an unusual occurrence. This is so because after people have finished their work together in mediation, they tend to just want to ‘forget’ about it and get on with their lives. It is a bit like the fact that I have never known anyone who celebrates the anniversary of that period of sickness or that visit to the dentist! And that is how it should be. People experience the difficulties, get help in dealing with them and then move on to better times. The mediators real reward is the privilege of being allowed to be witness to the fascinating changes and the precious moments as people find that way forward together.
Anyway, that phone call brought me a joyful end to the week and an uplifting beginning to the year 0f 2022!