Parent/Teen Mediation: Why Kids Return to the Table by Gail Goodman

I enjoy mediating with teens and parents. The cases are sometimes referred by social services or probation, or sometimes a school counselor or social worker will recommend trying mediation. Initially I made the assumption that any young person coming in who has been referred by an official agency, some under the threat that this was the last chance before being taken out of the home, would come in intending to comply with the terms. This is not always the case.

After greeting the parents and teen, I explain the mediation process and the ground rules and tell them that there is a commitment to attend a one hour session for 4 consecutive weeks. The parents generally agree but the teen will usually, and sullenly, only agree to see how it goes. There are no guarantees except for the first session. Yet at the end of all those first sessions, they all agree to come back; that’s a 100% retention rate. This isn’t to say that every mediation resolved all the conflicts or necessarily ended ‘successfully’, but just having everyone return every week was something of a victory. What made them agree? What changed their attitude? Here’s what I got from some of the feedback and my observations. Continue reading Parent/Teen Mediation: Why Kids Return to the Table by Gail Goodman

Second Guessing the Judge by Gail Goodman

So you want your day in court? You feel someone is taking advantage of you and you’re entitled to see a judge. Understandable but not necessarily smart. I had a case in small claims court that illustrates that all too well. (Not that there aren’t many more cases that I could use as an example. This example extends to other types of cases that could be litigated.) The case was a landlord/tenant case. The parties initially went before the judge. The landlord, quite confidently presented his side to the judge, citing the research he used from the internet to prove his case. He didn’t doubt for a minute that he was right, until the judge corrected him on the law. As with other types of research into technical issues on the web, there is a context and additional information that professionals know, whereas the layperson is apt to misinterpret or make a decision based on partial facts. (This also applies to self-diagnosing from a medical website. Before you make plans for your funeral, check with a specialist to see if your diagnosis is correct.) The landlord was not feeling quite so confident now. The tenants also felt they had the law on their side but when the judge pressed them to at least try mediation first, they reluctantly agreed. Continue reading Second Guessing the Judge by Gail Goodman

Elder Care Meditation Service Aims to Defuse Tense Issues (The Examiner)

Published in The Examiner on July 20, 2015.
By Martin Wilbur

The challenge of caring for an aging parent has become increasingly common during the past generation as people generally live longer and grown children can often live long distances apart.

That reality can place a strain on families unable to agree how to best address what mom or dad needs, whether that’s having an aide, needing a change in living arrangements or when myriad issues can arise.

Read full article

Take Care of the Moms Who Take Care of an Elderly Mom (

Written by Gail H. Goodman
Published in the May 5, 2015 edition of The Examiner News

Families around the country are making plans for Mother’s Day: making the reservations for the celebratory family dinner, mailing the cards and buying presents.

Hallmark and stores bombard us with reminders of what to get for our moms and the perfect way to
celebrate her, highlighting the joys of motherhood, from new mothers to grandmothers. We accept the
picture perfect world portrayed in advertising and expect to see it reflected in our lives.

What the ads don’t tell you is this: type “elderly mothers” in a search engine and you will get titles such as “My Elderly Mother is Driving Me Crazy” or “Is My Elderly Parent From the Exorcist.” This is the reality for many families as they confront Mother’s Day. These are the websites and articles written by those who bear the burden of caring for their elderly parents.


Dispute over Martin Luther King Jr.’s Bible, Nobel medal heads for mediation (

A judge in Georgia agreed on Wednesday to appoint a mediator to help settle a dispute between the late Martin Luther King Jr.’s children over whether to sell his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize medal and the Bible he carried during the civil rights movement.

The fight pits the slain civil rights leader’s sons Martin Luther King III and Dexter King, who want to sell the medal and Bible, against King’s surviving daughter, Bernice King, who opposes the sale of items she calls “sacred” to the family.

Read the full article on

Strengthening Troubled Sibling Bonds to Deal With an Aging Parent (NYTimes)

ROSIE, Therese and Linda McMahan were always close, but after their father died unexpectedly in 2011, they found their relationship strained.

They did not know what to do for their 84-year-old mother, Rose, and their brother, Paul, 53, who has cognitive disabilities and is in a wheelchair. The sisters tried to find an assisted-living home nearby, in the Boston area, but couldn’t. And so after many months, they decided that their mother and brother would move in with Rosie’s family in Amherst, Mass.

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Newsletter November 2014

The Fall has gone so fast and here we are gearing up for the holidays. Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year as people start heading away for the holiday. Most people will be with family during this time. For many this is a warm, fuzzy time with family and friends. For some, it is a time of tension and anxiety as family members gather to enjoy the holidays while dealing with long term, underlying tensions. We hope your holidays are happy and enjoyable ones but if you know of people who need to work on their conflicts with family, and preserve relationships, we are happy to help.

Family and the Holidays: A Recipe for Conflict?

As the holidays approach, we are receiving calls from family members anticipating family tensions that will come to a head as they gather together. Some have needed our help in order to get together for the holidays while others are preparing for the aftermath of their reunions. The people contacting us are elderly parents or adult siblings who are struggling with conflicts that are rooted in fragile relationships, but now are tested by a crisis that necessitates siblings and family members working together to make decisions. Our role is to help these families communicate in order to address their issues. Two articles that help explain what we do are provided here. We encourage you to read them and pass them on to those who need our services but didn’t even know this service is available and is a possible solution for them.

An article on

An article on

Time for Thanks and Reflection

As we gather to give thanks, we need to remember that conflict is normal in all relationships, and doesn’t have to be destructive as long as we know how to deal with it and don’t let it get out of hand. For those of you with teens, take this time to think about how your teen is doing. It’s almost the end of the first half of the year. If your teen is having troubles at home or at school, now is the time to think about what the problems are and how to handle them. If it’s a question of communication, as it often is with teens, think about mediation as a way of improving your teen’s communication skills and your ability to talk with your teen. We”re here to help.

We hope your holiday is a happy one.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ruth Weinreb and Gail H. Goodman
Talking Alternatives

Newsletter September 2014

Well, although we’re sorry to see the summer go, we can now look forward to a beautiful autumn. This is an energized time as we return from vacations and the ease of summer into the sobering back-to-school and back-to-work season. For many of us, the summer is a time of families getting together for vacations or visits. For some, these are light-hearted times, while for others it’s a time to catch up with the concerns that families are facing. We talk below about some of the problems families are encountering and how our services can help families meet these challenges.

Enjoy what is left of summer and enjoy the changing of the leaves!

Gail and Ruth

Adjusting to Getting Back to School

The end of summer and the beginning of school can be tense times. Gone is the freedom of summer, and the anticipation of another school year can create tension in a household. This is particularly true when children have moved up the previous year and are entering a new school. And the case is usually the bigger the child, the bigger the problems. Whether parents are concerned about the transition to a new school or a return to the problematic behavior of previous years, we can help you get off on a good foot by helping parents and teens discuss their concerns for the new school year. When we reach out to schools, we explain that we would rather see teens and their parents before the trouble gets out of hand. Teens are known not to be the best communicators, but with a facilitated conversation, parents and teens learn how to communicate effectively and how to discuss issues and problems, such as truancy or failure to do homework. If you know of a family facing these problems, or potential problems, please let them know we can help.

The Baby Boomer Caretaking Challenge

October 1 is a day to Honor an Elder. One way of doing that is acknowledging obstacles to the care of aging parents. Usually the care of aging parents falls upon the shoulders of their adult children. This is the generation that is busy trying to work towards meeting the obligations of their children’s schooling or, if past that, are trying to work and save for their own futures. But a health or other kind of crisis occurs, and they find themselves trying to balance their lives with the added responsibility of taking care of aging parents. Caregiving is a difficult role and it often falls on the shoulders of one sibling who lives near the parent. In addition to the other responsibilities in their lives, adult children are often now, once again, dealing with siblings with whom they have not dealt in years, in order to address the issues of their aging parents.

We spent part of this summer talking to staff in senior facilities. We were asked to talk to them about our services. They can feel the tension, and hear the arguments, among siblings when they first tour the facility and are faced with the realities of a parent’s circumstances and see the reality of the changed living situation. Then there are the children of residents who place the staff in the middle of disagreements about Mom or Dad’s care, an impossible role for the staff as advocates for the welfare of the parent.

This is where we come in. As neutral third parties, not advocating on anyone’s behalf, we can bring the siblings to the table and guide a discussion about the issues facing the family so that the family is able to move past their initial position. We help get them get past their own disagreements so that necessary decisions can be made cooperatively And so they can construct their own agreement for a plan going forward. We help them break the impasse. Again, if you know of a family facing these circumstances, please let them know we can help.

Welcome back from your summer vacations!

Gail and Ruth
Talking Alternatives

Newsletter July 2014

Just when we thought summer would never come, the heat and humidity are back. For those of us who were waiting anxiously for the cold to end, and made a vow not to complain when the heat arrived, we bite our tongue and refresh our memories of ice, snow and freezing temperatures to keep from saying anything. For those who can’t tolerate the heat, or those who just need an excuse, the heat can also cause temperatures to flare. We read in newspapers about fights and shootings at weekend parties and see tempers get out of hand on streets, subways and on our roads. As you will read in ‘Why Can’t We All Get Along?’ below, there are ways of handling conflict through careful and effective communication. If only we would all think before we speak.

Getting People to the Table

People often ask us how we convince both parties to come to mediation. It is a challenge. By the time people are referred to us, or self-refer by contacting us, the problem has escalated and they are at a standstill. If it’s a lawyer, caseworker or financial advisor, the problem is the same: nobody can make a necessary decision and the parties are not communicating. The person who contacts us has already acknowledged that there is a problem and that the parties are at an impasse. But if it is a third party that refers the clients to us, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the parties agree, or if they do, that they are willing to sit down and discuss it. Frequently the parties, whether it’s landlord/tenant, small business. or family disputes, have given up the idea of talking and think the inevitable next step is court. That’s when someone calls us. We speak to the first party and explain the benefits of mediation and ask them what they have to lose. They ask us questions about the process and it usually soon becomes clear that they do not really understand mediation. After the questions and answers are exchanged, emotions generally calm down and the idea of mediation as an option is given more consideration. So what usually convinces people to sit down and participate? One question we always ask after finding out how long the problem is going on is, “So, is this working for you?” Another question we like to ask is, “What are your other options?” The answers to these questions usually push people in the direction of mediation as a preferable alternative. We also find that reassuring people that this is a problem-, issue- focused process, is a positive aspect for them. Whether it’s family members who don’t want therapy or do not want to work on relationships that haven’t worked for 30 years, there is relief that we are only going to work on the issues at hand and get people to communicate in order to resolve the problem at hand. For business people, they realize the savings and the understanding that they can get some immediate relief. For landlords and tenants, they have the benefit of being able to move on with their lives sooner, rather than having to wait out the court process. In other words, understanding that they are out of options or faced with costly ones, that they are at a standstill that needs to be broken, and just plain reason, are usually the persuasive points that ultimately get people across the table from one another in our mediation sessions.

Why Can’t We All Get Along?

We’ve recently been asked to give presentations on dealing with conflict. Our presentations focus on helping people working with seniors where arguments among family members impede their ability to help their client, the elder in the family. Our presentation addresses how to identify the cause of conflict, individual positions and interests effecting the conflict, and how to effectively communicate, by listening and talking to the family members and getting them to do the same. Through examples of words to stay away from, or ways of asking questions, and giving people the tools to think about conflict in advance of the confrontations they deal with in their work, we hope that professionals can guide their clients to focus on the needs of their clients. Some of the participants have requested conflict coaching and we are always happy to do help with that.

Have a great summer and stay cool!

Gail and Ruth
Talking Alternatives