My Family and Me:
How Can Therapeutic Mediation Help Us?
by Ronald G. Silikovitz, Ph.D.
Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Danielle, who liked school very much. She had a little brother Seth, who went to preschool. Their mother Abigail was an airline reservations agent. Their father
Ralph was a self-employed financial analyst. They lived in a beautiful suburban house with a white picket fence. They had a frisky brown collie dog, Sam, for their pet. Danielle will tell you what happened in her
"During the summer, I heard Mommy and Daddy arguing a lot. In my bed, I couldn't easily fall asleep most nights, but I couldn't quite tell what Mommy and Daddy were saying to each other. I had never heard
loud arguments at home like this before. Something seemed to be wrong -- as the summer went on, very wrong.
"After I went back to school in the fall, I began to hear words like cheeting, child sub-port, and seppurration. One morning, after I heard my parents arguing, I noticed that Mommy had marks on
her face, and her eyes were red. I really did not understand. I began to get more upset every day. I could not eat like I usually did. I began to argue with my friends and daydream at school. I noticed that Seth
began to refuse his food, and he could not sleep through the night any more.
"One night Mommy and Daddy were really shouting at each other, and soon a policeman came to the house. Daddy was arrested and Mommy was crying. I did not know what to do. I was too confused to talk to my
teacher and my friends, and I was afraid to ask my mommy. Mommy was so sad some days and so grumpy other days. Daddy was not living at home any more. I heard Mommy tell my grandma on the phone something about a constraining order.
I heard my mommy tell her best friend Susan that she was going to fight my daddy tooths and nails so that me and Seth could keep on living with her. I also heard my mommy say something about hiring a lorrer and filing for devoice.
After a few days, I began to really miss my daddy. I wanted to make Seth feel better -- and our mommy feel better -- but I did not know what to say."
If Danielle's parents continue to maintain a high conflict approach that leads them to litigate in an adversarial manner, the story is likely to unfold in this manner…
"By January, right after I had my birthday, things kept getting worse. Daddy was still away, and me and Seth were not allowed to see him or talk to him. Every day, Mommy kept telling me bad things about
Daddy. She told me and Seth that Daddy
was not working. Mommy told me and Seth that Daddy had a new girlfriend and that she heard that Daddy may be living with her. I just did not understand why my daddy would live with anyone except Mommy. What Mommy said about Daddy and his girlfriend made me sad and mad. One day I had to see a doctor and go to a hospital for an examination that hurt a lot (down there),
and there was not even a lollipop. Seth had to go too, and I noticed how nervous Mommy was about all this.
"Then, I had to see three different doctors, each doctor a lot of times. (I thought that they were called sikallajusts). I had to answer, again and again, questions about Daddy, Mommy, who I want to
live with, who touches my private parts, and a lot of things that I just didn't want to talk about. I found out that one of these sikallajusts was hired by my mommy, one by my daddy, and one by a judd. Going to three different doctors didn't make any sense to me. I told each sikallajust things I thought they wanted me to say. Mommy or Daddy each talked to me a lot before my sessions and then asked me a lot of questions after the sessions. All of this really mixed me up and made me feel like I am in the middle.
"And I had thought that judds are only there to punish bad people. I wondered if I was bad or if Seth was bad. I was glad when I heard that this judd is letting me and Seth see Daddy, even though we have to go to a court building once a month to see him. I do not understand why I cannot just see Daddy alone, without a lot of other children and mommies and daddies in a very big room. I am upset that Daddy now keeps saying bad things to me about Mommy, and that Mommy still keeps saying bad things to me about Daddy. I feel even more like I am in the middle, and it is harder and harder to please both Mommy and Daddy.
"I really think that my parents are telling me too many things. Daddy tells me that it costs him a thousand million dollars (or something like that) for him to have an apartment and pay Mommy and his lorrer and his sikallajust to help with the devoice and with his getting kuss-today of me and Seth. Mommy tells me that Daddy goes to bars and does live with his new girlfriend Sally. Mommy tells me that Sally is divorced and has two children. Mommy tells me that she wrote a lot of bad things about Daddy and Daddy wrote a lot of bad things about Mommy in some papers that the lorrers have sent to the judd.
Whenever daddy calls, Mommy screams at him and I can hear Daddy talking loud on the phone, though I cannot hear -- and I really do not want to hear -- exactly what he is saying. I am so upset with Mommy that I now
talk back to her and don't always listen to her.
Mommy has said something about taking me to a thurpist. I know that I am not sick, and I don't understand. I now cry almost every day. I have dreams that Mommy and Daddy get back together and that our
family is happy again, like it used to be. I also sometimes have nightmares that Daddy has died and me and Seth will never see him again. I am more confused and more upset every day, and Mommy and Daddy are fighting
so much that things are getting hopeless. I have even thought about dying myself.
"Finally, after all the sikallajusts and lorrers were finished, Mommy tells me that the judd said that she would keep kuss-today of me and Seth, that Daddy has to pay her a lot of money every week, for alley-money and child sub-port,
and that me and Seth could see Daddy every other weekend, if Uncle Lenny picks us up and takes us back and forth to see Daddy. Mommy tells me that her and Daddy are both very upset with what the judd decided and that Mommy will find a way to get Daddy to see me and Seth less, especially if Daddy does not pay enough alley-money and sub-port every month.
I just can't imagine how me and Seth will ever live happily ever after."
If Daniell's parents have the wisdom and the opportunity to engage in an alternative dispute resolution process, such as therapeutic mediation, the story may unfold in this manner ...
"By November, things started to get better. Mommy and Daddy were still living apart, but one day Mommy and Daddy took me and Seth to the park and told us that the judd wants them to try to work things out.
The judge is making everyone do therr-pewtik meedashn. Mommy and Daddy told me that they still do not get along and that they will probably stay apart. But the therr-pewtik meediater will help each of us, Mommy and Daddy told me, by meeting sometimes with one of us, sometimes with some of us, and sometimes with the whole family, maybe even including Uncle Lenny sometimes. We can learn to work out our problems, keep talking to each other, and decide together about cuss-today and vizzitashun.
Mommy and Daddy will try hard to do what is best for me and Seth. This all sounds pretty good.
"I got to meet the therr-pewtik meediater yesterday. She is neat, even for a doctor. She gave me a book and a video about devoice and told me that many children like me have parents who cannot be happy together but who can talk to each other so that their children stay happy. I like her and I like this idea. Mommy is smiling a little more, and Seth and I are eating and sleeping a little better. We look forward to seeing our daddy, and once in a while Daddy and Mommy take us to the park together. We know that things will never be quite the same, but Mommy and Daddy each tell us that they are both trying hard to make Seth and me happy. Mommy and Daddy will both be at my birthday party in January. When I go to sleep at night, I thank Mommy and Daddy for finding the therr-pewtik meediater.
"Now, I do think that all of us might be able to live happily ever after, as long as Mommy and Daddy and I go to therrpy and Mommy and Daddy keep talking to each other without shouting and arguing."
The end …. Or is this a beginning???
(This article is also published on Psychology Information Online.)