The Privilege of Reconciling Family Breakdowns
Family breakdown is on the rise. Stewart Hanney is a Christian who runs a mediation company – and is seeing an increased demand for his services.
When it comes to resolving conflict so many people do not have the tools to help them get through. The result is unresolved conflict which festers and often grows into bitterness, resentment and disunity. Families can get so entrenched in their circumstances and the emotion of a difficult family relationship it results in them not being able to resolve the situation themselves.
Unfortunately I have seen a rapid increase in the area of reconciling family disputes and breakdown. As an independent mediator and facilitator I receive many calls and emails from fractured families. My heart is to be a peacemaker and my role is to lead families through a journey of exploring the issues and take them into a problem solving phase where healthy, realistic steps can be agreed in order to help restore what has been lost.
The typical process my team and I will adopt is to meet each party individually first. This gives each party the opportunity to tell their story without being judged, criticised or interrupted. It also allows them to think about what a healthy relationship with the other party would look like going forward. The next step is to have a joint meeting where each party will have some uninterrupted speaking time followed by an exploring phase and then a problem solving. When ready the parties are led into agreeing healthy next steps they want to take.
It can all sound a bit business like and formal but this is a framework, not a set of instructions. My job is to provide an environment where maximum opportunity is given to reconciling what is lost and agree genuine realistic steps to rebuild going forward.
The next step is two subsequent joint meetings to ensure everyone is still on track. After the first joint meeting, which often can be the first time two parties have been in the same room for years, there is too much to process for us to just leave them. We strongly recommend we check in with them twice more. The emotion of it all can sometimes trigger other things and we need to be on hand to walk parties though that. It is important we are around for those early days.
There are so many families who are fractured by relationship breakdown and hurt. Our aim to restore families and our role is to help with those critical first steps that are often so painful and therefore often not made. Although we are called over a specific situation, what we often find it is years of hurt that have caused things to come to a head.
Although I work mostly with unbelievers, God’s values and principles are completely at the centre of everything the team and I do. I will openly talk about the importance of saying sorry from the heart, forgiveness and not holding grudges. God has given us His ways as solutions for the world and my heart is to pass these on as best I can.
Each situation presents a challenge. I pray a lot for wisdom, for God to make a path, and for those involved. The simple truth is I get to co-labour with God in this – my job is not to get in the way of Him.
Sadly we cannot help everyone - we have to be clear who we can help and those we cannot. Generally we cannot help families where social services are involved or where there are legal orders and at present we cannot work with under 18s. We will be very honest if we think a situation is outside of our skill set and try to signpost them to who can best offer help. There are many incredibly gifted organisations and charities doing extraordinary work with families.
There are so many families who are in the midst of painful family disputes and situations. It means there is much to do but much to be thankful for too - it is an incredible privilege to serve God in this way as we get to love and restore people back together.
Stewart Hanney is a Christian living in Milton Keynes. He runs an accredited workplace mediation, conflict coaching, training company (Resolvex People Solutions) as well as a family division (Resolvex Family Reconciliations)
Pic credit: RGB Stock