Archive for month: February, 2014

The word Impossible turning into Possible on yellow sticky note.

How to Deal With Teenage Drama | Mediation | Teen Counseling Natick, MA

Understatement of the year: teenagers are tough to parent.

Tell me something you don’t know, right?

Some conventional ways parents deal with their intransigent teens involve arguing, punishing, ignoring, avoiding, and when push comes to shove, therapy.

I recently had success with an unconventional approach with two “heated” teenagers who almost fought on the bus.

Teen Counseling Natick: A Different Way to Deal with Teenager Conflicts

Kate, a 17-year-old girl, was upset because she believed that Larry, a 15 year old boy was talking badly about her with other kids. She had heard that he called her a b****, made sexual innuendos, talked trash about her family, and to boot, had thrown an apple at her six-year old brother.

Larry was infuriated after hearing that she called his mother “crazy” and made fun of him with other kids. He was scared her talk would lead to losing respect in the neighborhood.

I recommended they participate in mediation even though both were referred to me for school-based teen counseling,

So, I brought these two students who were at each other’s throat in to mediation…raising more than a few eyebrows from skeptical colleagues.

It began with both kids sitting back with their arms folded and facial expressions tense. He spoke so softly he could barely be heard and she was curt.

The walls were up, the tension palpable, and thus began the mediation.

Did Sparks Fly? Did it Come to Blows?

Forty minutes later they were leaning forward, looking relaxed. They were asking each other questions. An occasional smile cracked through. He was speaking with a normal volume. She with compassion and humor.

They mended fences, made an agreement about how they would talk about any future concerns, and even scripted how to respond to friend who was tangentially involved.

So what happened?

Mediation Happened to These Teenage Problems!


  • After agreeing to keep the discussion confidential they immediately began to share information more freely
  • I reflected and reframed what Kate was saying so Larry had a better understanding of her perspective. This led him to take responsibility for something that he did not previously realize was hurtful to her.
  • After Larry took responsibility, she feltheard and understood and began to consider his point of view and interpretation of events.
  • They moved beyond the issues of the past and figured out how to co-exist in the present and the future.

In other words, with the help of a neutral facilitator and a safe and confidential environment, two teens who were so caught up in their high school teenage drama they were ready to go to blows experienced the power of effective communication, practiced listening skills, and engaged in problem solving.

Teen Counseling or Family Counseling May Be Helpful But…

…with teen counseling it is unlikely the conflict with Larry and Kate would have resolved as quickly or efficiently.

Conflicts involving teenagers abound. In school. On the streets.

And especially at home with their parents and siblings.

Too often the teenager is identified as a “problem child,” referred to counseling. Now don’t get me wrong — there is a time and place for teen therapy. I am a licensed social worker, after all.

But sometimes the acting-out teen is a product of the conflict — if the conflict resolves the acting-out may disappear. Without someone to mediate, the dispute will likely continue to simmer, and occasionally boil over.

If you live or work with a teenager please consider mediating conflict between teens or between teens and adults. Call on a friend. A parent-teen mediator. A relative. A school counselor.

Mediating the problem now can save a lot of heartache later. Unless, of course, you really like living with teenage drama!

Please REPLY below with your experiences with mediating teenage problems?

The students’ names and ages were changed to protect confidentiality.

Teen Counseling Natick Information: Click Here

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Concept image of a lost and confused signpost against a blue cloudy sky.

Feeling Ignored? MA Child Support Mediation Shows Why You Get Bewildered When Solutions to Family Problems Are Ignored…And What To Do About It!

Ever offer a solution to a problem that you know will help the other person?

A brilliant, selfless, creative, and irrefutable solution?

Like this one I heard during a MA child support mediation:

“I really won’t care if you reduce the child support.”

How many parents paying child support would LOVE to be told that by their co-parent?

If you’re thinking all of them you would be thinking what I was thinking during a recent parenting mediation in Massachusetts.

The father was struggling financially. Well-educated and talented he had been down on his luck.

For a year.

He was used to making six figures and only brought in $35,000 this last year. He was re-directing all his income from his recent contracting gig to her and was leaving enough for himself only to pay bills and eat. He even turned off cable.

He was behind in child support payments by thousands of dollars.

And he was petrified the judge would lock him up the next time they were in court.

It was with this context the wife suggested what seemed like the perfect solution.

He should file for a reduction, she suggested. She cared less about the amount of support. She just wanted reliable support.

Mediating a Dream MA Child Support Proposal

He ignored the suggestion.

Then he gave a circular explanation for why lowering support would not help him if he came in to money in a few months (which was a possibility).

Of course it would help, explained his co-parent. Even if the amount was increased later he would still pay less in the interim.

Still, he danced around the issue.

I finally interjected and said, “you told us that you’re scared you might get arrested, that despite your best efforts you are having trouble finding a better job, and that you can’t pay your arrears. She is encouraging you to file for a reduction. Can you help us understand why you don’t seem interested in her proposal?”

He looked right at me as his eyes welled up.

“Ben, it keeps me up at night that I can’t pay my child support. That I can’t provide for my child. That I can’t contribute to his basic needs like clothing, food and activities. It kills me.”

“I’m not lowering my child support.”

You’re Not?

Proud. Dutiful. Responsible. These are the values driving his reaction.

Her suggestion made sense on the surface. But it missed the mark in one important way. It had absolutely nothing to do with what was important to him. It was a solution based exclusively on her desire for predictable payments.

Who would have guessed?

Ninety-nine out of a 100 times the parent would jump on the chance to lower payments. This was that 1 out of a 100.

Steps to Improve Family Problem Solving

It can be infuriating when your spouse, parent or child outright rejects what seems to you a logical and obvious solution to an important problem.

You try to convince the other why they should listen to you. They argue back.

And nothing gets worked out. Except that the conflict has gotten a whole lot worse.

If you find yourself offering a well-intended and logical suggestion that is rejected there are but a few possible explanations:

1. You didn’t explain it well (unlikely if you’ve already tried more than once)

2. Your spouse, child or parent is being stubborn and unreasonable (unlikely if the problem is also burdening them)

3. Drugs or alcohol are involved (hopefully not — but if so this is NOT the time to try having a rational conversation)

4. Something else is going on

When Something Else is Going On…

1. Take pause

2. Consider that there might be something else going on

3. Check in with the person by letting them know that you understand they don’t like your idea, and that you want to know what about it doesn’t work for them (without sarcasm)

4. If that doesn’t work, drop your suggestion. Wait for a later time when the tensions have lowered. And then go back to step #3 and try to figure out what else is going on.

Curious, Are You?

Curious how it ended with my MA child support mediation clients?

They decided to request a 30 day continuance to buy the father more time to figure out his finances (and avoid jail-time for the moment). He outlined how much she should expect to receive each week based on his current job. They decided to work on the parenting schedule so they could report progress to the court. And they scheduled another mediation session for a few weeks out to explore other alternatives.

A perfect solution? No.

A viable temporary solution? Yes.

Why? Because it was relevant to what was important to both of them.

These folks detest one another. If they can do it, so can you.

What is your experience when your solutions to problems get shot down? Other illustrations like this MA child support mediation? Comment below!

LINKEDIN USERS: LinkedIn does not have the capability for your comments on LinkedIn groups to appear on the original blog post. if you are commenting on a LinkedIn group would you mind copying the comment directly on to the blog so my other readers can benefit from your ideas and reactions? Thank you, thank you, thank you for commenting and reading my post inspired by a MA child support mediation!!