How to Manage Family Strife

01/06/2016 03:42 pm ET | Updated Jan 06, 2016
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Families argue -- especially around the holidays. Overbearing in-laws, wayward teens, stepfamilies, elder care or antiquated parenting plans can turn a home into a war zone. While some situations are easily resolved, others can linger for months -- even years. Instead of allowing conflict to fester -- consider mediation.

Families in conflict either ignore the problem or constantly argue. Ignoring problems won't make them better. Chronic family conflict can cause irreversible damage and disenfranchise family members. Do yourself and your family a favor by considering mediation to help resolve family conflict. Mediators help families solve disputes completely, peacefully and privately. When skillfully managed, discord can be a catalyst for emotional growth.

Mediation is an effective method of conflict resolution yet, few people truly understand it. Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process that offers families an alternative to costly and lengthy litigation and therapy. What issues need to be addressed and who needs to do what to resolve the conflict are determined by those involved in the mediation. Mediators provide a safe platform for a difficult yet direct conversation to take place. With the help of the mediator, parties talk openly and constructively about problems and potential solutions. Mediated cases typically settle in one or two sessions with flexible scheduling.

The goal of mediation is to craft a written agreement meeting each family member's unique needs. These needs are not limited by the rules of evidence or legal relevance. And, since those in the mediation craft the mediation agreement, they are more likely to abide by it. Mediation is cooperative, not adversarial; civility during discourse is compulsory. Relationships may be preserved through mediation, and communication often ameliorated.

Mediation is perfect for families seeking a confidential and compassionate way to work through differences. Instead of wasting time on destructive behaviors, mediation promotes productive problem solving. Families who choose to mediate, model cooperation and compromise while protecting loved ones from the public and emotional toll of court. As the owner of Esrey Mediation, "I've worked with families who litigated their divorce longer than they were married. After one mediation session, acrimonious debates often give way to collaboration. More importantly, communication improved". I believe people in conflict - properly guided - are perfectly capable of their absolute resolution

Stop spending precious time fighting and stressing. Sit down with a mediator to talk constructively about your needs and how to best meet them. You may be surprised by what you learn. You may resolve the conflict and improve future communication.

Elizabeth Esrey is a private non-attorney mediator. With years of mediation experience & education, she works to ensure that her clients' needs are met - confidentially and efficiently. For more information regarding Esrey Mediation, please visit or call Elizabeth at (913) 2226-8000.