Step/Blended Family Mediation incorporates a system I developed over the past few years in which I combine Step Family Coaching with Family Mediation Techniques and assist the Couple first to get on the “same page” and then they can bring the other family members into mediation.
I have had the privilege of working with a variety of step families and all have an unique story to tell.
When couples come to me, they are often overwhelmed, sad, angry and frustrated with one another, the children and/or the ex-spouse. Their built up emotions feel like a pressure valve about to explode for many of these families. They know they don’t want to go down the same argumentative path but they often don’t know where to start other than into their defensive blaming conversation. They are soon relieved when they see that I help them start by creating an agenda of the issues and concerns they each have. The guideline when creating the agenda is when one person is talking, the other is only allowed to ask questions for clarification of their concern, they are not allowed to negate what their spouse is saying -They start to get a sense right away that Step family Mediation is something quite different than what they expected.
My mediation ”style” with Step- families is a Facilitative/Interest Based style. However, Step/Blended families need more than a ”mediation style” to help them along-they also need Step-family educational pieces along the way which is where my Step family Coaching comes into play.
Not all Professional Coaches are trained in Conflict Resolution and in particular High Conflict.
Not all Family Mediators are trained in Step/Blended Family Dynamics other than “surface” knowledge of step-family dynamics.
Welcome to the Step-family Dialogues
In the Step-family Dialogues, you are going to have a chance to “watch” these families go through the process of Step/Blended family mediation. As their story unfolds, I will stop every once in a while and shed some light on their issues since the purpose of the Step-family Dialogues is to educate and inform and hopefully assist anyone out there experiencing Step-family challenges.
All of the names in these families have been changed to protect their privacy. Their struggles though are very real and the strategies they chose are as creative and unique as each family.
Marni & Bill – The “Instant Mom” Conundrum
At 28 years of age, Marni was living the single life of working 50 hours a week as she focused on advancing her career while ensuring she relaxed and let loose on the weekends. She certainly never saw it in her plans to fall in love with a man who was 10 years older but when they were introduced to one another by a mutual friend, Marni was smitten with this handsome, attentive and fun loving man name Bill.
Bill was attracted to Marni’s laugh and the way she seemed to command a presence when she walked into the room. He could tell that she was ambitious as they talked about their jobs. He also noticed how Marni could light up a room with her energy. She was a breath of fresh air after experiencing his divorce four years earlier.
Bill’s hard work had paid off and he was given an opportunity for a promotion but the down side of this career advancement was that he would also be transferred to British Columbia from Manitoba which meant that he would not be able to see his son Russell regularly. This was hard on both Bill and Russell but they made the best of the situation and Russell spent three weeks every summer with Bill as well as every other Christmas vacation.
Marni and Bill decided that they would move in together a couple of months after they began to date. The summer was just about over and although Marni had seen Russell quite a bit during his three week stay, she didn’t give Step-parenting much thought. Russell was back in Manitoba and since this wasn’t his year to come for Christmas, she and Bill would have ten months together.
That all changed when Bill received a phone call from his ex-wife Liz. Russell has asked to move to British Columbia to be with Bill and seemed quite adamant that the only answer he would accept from his mother and father was “yes”.
Bill was ecstatic that Liz would allow Russell to move over 2,000 miles and four Provinces away and although she made some stipulations such as the Sole Custody arrangement was to remain with her, Bill agreed and the next thing Marni knew was that she became an instant full time Stepmother to a nine year old boy.
Marni had not been around very many children and didn’t quite know what she was going to do with a stepchild – never mind that she had even less experience with young boys!
Marni had to learn “Motherhood” very quickly and the quiet, romantic evenings with Bill were about to end.
To be continued….
In Chapter 2 you will read how Marni is literally pulling her hair out as she “bites her tongue” in response to Bill’s parenting style.