Help us get families talking this Easter | Depaulcharity

Help us get families talking this Easter | Depaulcharity

Depaul helps people who are homeless, vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Help us get families talking this Easter

By Dave Batchelor - 8 March 2019


An important strand of prevention work carried out by Depaul UK is family mediation. Many young people who become homeless leave the family home following a conflict. Dave has been working in Manchester to resolve conflict and bring families back together for more than a decade.

This Easter Depaul UK is asking churches and community groups to help us prevent homelessness and keep families together. Could you display materials about our services? Find out more here.

In almost all of the cases we see at Reconnect there’s been a breakdown in communication. That’s what mediation helps to resolve, and it helps families to communicate. The conflict that’s arisen is usually a symptom of people not understanding each other’s communication styles.

When I first got into homelessness work it was in a hostel for guys who were on the streets. They were in their 40s and 50s, and sort of entrenched in their lifestyles and behaviours. They would often show me these crumpled up pictures of their families and tell me about their life stories, and it used to make me wonder what could be done to prevent things getting to this stage?

When a job came up working for Depaul UK doing family mediation work with Reconnect, I felt like it was a chance to help stop these problems from happening and nip them in the bud early doors.

There’s no typical family and no typical situation, but a common situation is that a young person is removing themselves from a conflict, either by staying out really late or by staying away from their parents’ house.

In their head – and I often talk to them about this – if I’m not face to face with that conflict, it’s not a conflict, it’s not a problem. Whereas on the other side the parent doesn’t know where they are, is worried about them. Inevitably they come together at some point, things kick off and the young person leaves or is threatening to leave.

I talk about family conflict like a coke bottle that’s been shaken up. The pressure builds, and eventually it can spill over and makes a mess. Instead of an explosion, the use of mediation allows some of the conflict to be poured away, releasing the pressure and enabling each party to understand themselves and each other better. Situations will still cause a fizz but one which is more manageable.  

We get involved when there’s a connection made with social care services or housing services about the situation. People come from all sorts of backgrounds, I’ve worked with those who are incredibly wealthy and those who are incredibly poor. The common thing is that there’s been a communication breakdown.

The idea with mediation is that I don’t resolve it. I help them to resolve it. I create an environment in which they can resolve it. If both parties are interested in working things out, I’ll meet with them each individually. Then I can hear their side of the story and build some rapport one on one.

When we go into joint mediation, we set ground rules about who can speak when and not interrupting, things like that. I help people to find common ground – some things that they can agree on. Often, they’ll both agree that communication has been poor.

On one occasion, I met with a mum and son who were in conflict over the son’s messy bedroom. After a while, it emerged that although a tidy bedroom wasn’t a priority for him, a tidy car was – and he thought his mum’s was messy. The agreement they came up with was that she could tidy his room, and he would valet her car in return. It’s not what I expected to come out of the session, but it worked for them!

Family mediation is all about reconnecting people, helping them communicate better and hopefully preventing homelessness. If you can sort out that issue, then everything is going to stem from there. So if a young person has a better relationship with their parents, they’ll be more likely to study and work and have a better relationship with other people. They might use fewer substances because they’re less stressed. Lots of positive things come from good relationships.

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