Category Archives: Posts

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! ALREADY?

By Janet McNeal

A few weeks ago I noticed an advertisement declaring ‘Only 71 days ‘til Christmas’.  I was absolutely baffled that someone had already begun that iconic countdown.  Summer was barely over, the leaves were just beginning to turn autumn colors, and I was still mildly surprised when I was spotting school buses on the roadways.  Where did the summer go?

Yet here we are with the “holiday season” almost upon us.  This is a fast paced world with lots of pressures and stress in our everyday life.  Now we are running full speed into the holiday season.  Halloween is behind us, Thanksgiving is only two weeks away and before you know it, it will be Christmas.

I am not a big fan of Halloween.  But I do love autumn and especially Thanksgiving.  I love the pumpkin spice products that pop up on the menus at every eatery and grace the shelves in grocery stores.  I love cold apple cider on warm days and hot mulled cider on cool nights.  I love a turkey dinner with savory dressing, cranberry sauce and of course, pie for dessert.

I love everything about autumn, even the particular shade of blue of the autumn sky and the crispness of the air.  I moved away from Adams County a few years ago but still return to visit friends and harvest Adams County apples, the best apples in the country.

After I am done picking apples, I like to stroll through the orchards to enjoy the peace, tranquility and beauty of the hillsides, and breathe in the smells of the season.  For a brief time I leave behind all the troubles, conflicts, worries and strife of everyday life.  I am thankful to have such a blessed life.

But life isn’t like that for everyone.  In fact, it wasn’t always like that for me.  Like many others, my friends and family struggled through financial loss, divorce, cancer, the death of loved ones, and bitter, angry disputes that wound so deeply they take years to heal, if they ever do heal.

In this Thanksgiving season, I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who visited our table at “The Giving Spree” and donated so generously to Mediation Services of Adams County. Your financial support helps us to continue serving the citizens of Adams County with affordable mediations, and conflict resolution services and training.  Thank you for your contribution.

Are you, your friends or your family struggling with a situation or conflict that seems hopelessly deadlocked in bitter disputes?  Do you dread going to holiday gatherings that too often end in angry words and hurt feelings?  Mediation Services of Adams County (MSAC) has trained mediators available to help you work through strained family relationships, neighbor disputes, or other conflicts. To contact MSAC, call 717-334-7312, email mediationac@yahoo.com, or go to our website, http://mediateadams.org. to learn more about our mediations for economical fees based on income, or to schedule a mediation.

WHAT IS MEDIATION?

By Mary Kay Turner

Mediation is a structured process in which people involved in difficult conflicts meet with trained mediators to help them communicate better and solve their issues.  The trained objective mediators work with them to resolve a conflict that they are unable to settle on their own.

Mediation Services of Adams County (MSAC) provides mediation to help people work together to create solutions to their conflicts. Two weeks after a mediation one of the disputants told us, “We have started to communicate better and are currently talking. We appreciate your help for getting us on the same page.”

In a mediation, the disputants first sign an agreement to mediate, respecting all the people there and the mediation process. The mediators listen and guide the discussion as each person listens to the other person’s story of the situation and tells a personal perspective of the conflict without interruption.  The mediators help the people in conflict to hear each other, understand how the problem affects the other person, sort out the issues, and build a resolution that allows them to move forward and communicate positively with each other.

They work together toward a common goal, such as providing support for children or an elderly parent.  The mediators guide the disputants to discover the interests that are most important to each of them and let go of positions they have developed as they have argued about the situation.  Each person shares ideas that would help resolve the conflict and what is needed to move forward.  The disputants brainstorm possible solutions and talk about likely consequences.  With guidance from the mediators they work to create an action plan that fills the needs of all the people involved as much as possible.  The disputants resolve their problem in a way that works for them.

MSAC also schedules trainings to educate people and certify them as mediators.  Recently we received this message from a mediator we trained two years ago, then from north central PA:

“I still use my mediation skills from the Adams County Mediation Center today! I am now Executive Director of the Fair Housing Center of Washington (in WA state) and use my skills to help clients obtain reasonable accommodations with their landlord/property management. I’ve been able to impart some of the key questions we learned about position vs. interests on our employees which has increased our effectiveness in advocating on behalf of clients, presenting case findings with less bias and getting more useful information when investigating cases of potential discrimination in housing. We have a local mediation non-profit around here, and I’ve already begun looking into training for our employees because I found the Adams County class so useful.” 

It is exciting to see some of the impact that MSAC is having as mediators continue to use the concepts they learned in our training.

ARGUING UNDER THE INFLUENCE

By Gregory Rapp

People are angry these days. Have you noticed? We will yell, scream, and throw punches over anything. Everyone seems spoiling for a fight and one can break out anytime, anywhere. We disagree, argue, and choose sides. We blame and punish. We care more about being right and beating the other side than we do working together solve the problem at hand.

Anger is a natural response we’ve developed to respond quickly to threats. A bear jumps out in front of us and our brain instantly dumps adrenaline and cortisol into our bloodstream. The adrenaline revs the engine, increasing heart rate, deepening breathing, and releasing blood sugar into the bloodstream so our muscles will be able to fight or take flight. The cortisol shuts off the rational thinking part of our brains because thinking takes too much time when faced with a hungry bear. It also shuts off our empathy and compassion making it easier to wound and kill if necessary, without feeling bad about it. It’s all about survival and self-defense in the wild, but in the relative safety of our modern lives this response is overkill, especially when it comes to a squabble over a parking space.

Anger is a feeling of hostility toward another person or situation that, if allowed to run its course, will end in violence. It is very difficult to “just calm down” because there is a very real cocktail of drugs coursing through our bloodstream that turns off the rational thinking part of the brain and we will not cool off until these substances are out of the bloodstream. It is no different than taking a powerful sleeping pill then changing our minds about wanting a nap. The sedative is already in our bloodstream, so a nap is happening. When angry, we are no longer “in our right minds.” We are literally under the influence of mind-altering substances, so our perceptions and decisions made while angry are unreliable. When two people are angry with each other and processing the situation under the influence of these hormone induced delusions, it sets off a series of dominoes escalating the conflict toward violence. We do not drive while under the influence. We take a cab. Someone else can help us get home safely. We should not make important decisions while under the influence, either. Sometimes, we could use some help working through our disagreements and problems because the anger is getting us in trouble.

Mediation Services of Adams County (MSAC) has trained mediators available to help you work through strained family relationships, neighbor disputes, or other conflicts for an economical fee based on income.  If you would like more information about Mediation, please contact Mediation Services of Adams County, 717-334-7312, P.O. Box 4113, Gettysburg, PA 17325, online at mediationac@yahoo.com , or check out our website, www.mediateadams.org.

THE GIFT OF LISTENING SHOWS YOUR LOVE

By Mary Kay Turner

For hundreds of years February has been known for Valentine’s Day on the 14th. February is now also celebrated as Black History Month and Heart Health Month in addition to other designations. For all of these causes, good communication is essential.

A great gift to give to your spouse, children, parents, partner, siblings, coworkers, and friends is to listen. Listening is in the same category as hugs and smiles, as it requires time but no money to give it. A hug is a great gift–one size fits all, and it’s easy to exchange. Mother Teresa said, “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.” Usually a smile stirs a smile in return and can create a long chain of smiles. Smiles are also helpful in facilitating communication, encouraging the other person to share thoughts.

Paul Tillich said, “The first duty of love is to listen.” Listening is the most important element in communication. Even in families that are functioning well there can sometimes be challenges in communication. It is important to hear every word that is said; for example, missing a “not” gives the opposite meaning to a sentence.

The biggest problem in communication is we don’t listen to understand, we listen to reply. Listen first, understand second, then reply, if you must.” –Charles B. Lamb

Often people think about what they want to say while another person is speaking. Instead we need to listen carefully to what is being said.

You can use active listening techniques to be sure you understand what someone said.. To paraphrase you restate what you heard; you might say, “I heard you say….” Another technique is to empathize or check feelings. You could simply say, “You seem to be feeling….” Usually a person would correct you if you didn’t get it right.

Karl Menninger, of the Menninger family who founded the Menninger Clinic in Kansas, said, “Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward, and we want to sit in their radius. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.You can check this out by thinking about the people whose company you enjoy. Are they good listeners?

We hope that you will give your loved ones, colleagues, and coworkers the gift of listening this month and make listening a habit. in your interactions. This should improve your communication and help improve your life, especially if you listen and speak with a smile.

Watch for more information about Spring Mediation Training with Mediation Services of Adams County. It will be held Fri.-Sat., April 26-27 and May 3-4, Fridays 5-9, and Saturdays 9-5. The cost for the 22-hour training is $275 per person ($250 for early birds, with payment by April 5, 2019). The registration deadline is April 20, 2019. For more information, call 717-334-7312, or email mediationac@yahoo.com. You can also learn more about mediation or schedule a mediation for help in resolving conflicts with family members, neighbors, contractors, landlords, etc. Fees are economical, based on income.

HOW WELL ARE YOU COMMUNICATING?

By Mary Kay Turner

A month into 2019, how is your year going? Are you communicating well with your spouse, your children, your parents, siblings, neighbors, and coworkers?

Sometimes we need help to find the best way to communicate with our families. Leslie Means, writing on herviewfromhome.com, suggests some questions to ask children that are likely to get better answers than “How was your day?” Specific questions usually bring better responses. She started with 4 questions: “What is your favorite part of your day?”, “What is your least favorite part of your day?”, “What questions do you have about today?”, “How did you show kindness or love today?” One can share expectations and help guide a child’s focus by asking the right questions in the right way.

She elicited questions from readers, expanded her list, and added questions to communicate better with spouses. These could be adapted for speaking with parents, siblings, and friends. Here are some examples: “What made you smile today?”, “Tell me 2 things you learned today,” “What are you looking forward to tomorrow?,” “If you could teach/choose the project tomorrow, what would you do?”

To improve your communication, you could attend the 2019 Mediation Services of Adams County Mediation Training, on April 26–27 and May 3–4. For more information about the times, location, and costs, click hereThe mediation training is a 22-hour workshop using recommendations by the Pennsylvania Council of Mediators Standards for Mediator Credentialing. Topics covered include conflict styles, active listening skills, information gathering, communication skills, problem solving, decision making, and agreement formalization. Professionally trained and certified mediators from Mediation Services of Adams County will conduct all training sessions.

For more information, call 717-334-7312 and leave a message if you get voicemail. Or e-mail mediationac@yahoo.com. Registration forms are also available at the Adams County Library, the YWCA and this website. Click here for online registration or here for a printable form. 

RESOLVING CONFLICTS CONSTRUCTIVELY WITH MEDIATION

By Mary Kay Turner

Conflict is a fact of life for everyone. We find conflicts in our homes, in our jobs, in our communities, in the places we worship, and even in volunteering to help other people. Sometimes it seems that we are minding our own business, and conflict finds us.

Often conflict is a result of too many people wanting limited resources. Or conflict may happen as a result of misunderstanding or miscommunication. Even when we speak the same language, I might have a different understanding of a word someone says to me. When I speak, another person hearing the words I say might find them offensive though I think they are innocent. With all the possibilities of problems in communicating, it seems amazing that we communicate as well as we do. It is always important to speak respectfully to people and check that we understand each other.

When a conflict between two people escalates to the point that they find it difficult to talk with each other civilly, there are options. In some cases they can avoid dealing with the conflict by avoiding each other, or they can communicate through other people. If they have to work with each other, they can consult lawyers for a considerable fee, or they can contact Mediation Services of Adams County (MSAC) or another group that provides mediation.

There are a number of advantages to using mediation to resolve conflicts. With MSAC, one big advantage is the price. The fees are set up on a sliding scale based on the annual income for each person for each 2-3-hour session (up to $15,000—$10.00 fee;
$15,001 to $30,000—$20.00 fee; $30,001 to $50,000—$40.00 fee; more than $50,000—$60.00 fee). A client once reported paying a lot of money to a lawyer without making any progress and then getting more done to resolve the conflict with mediation at a much lower cost.

Another big advantage is that in mediation we work together on solving the problem, not attacking each other, but always speaking respectfully to and about everyone in the room. We model and teach listening, clarifying, restating, and other communication skills. We work to preserve the relationship, which is especially important in family and work conflicts where life is much better for everyone involved when they continue to relate positively with each other. Recently a client said, “We have started to communicate better and are currently talking. We appreciate your help for getting us on the same page.”

A third advantage is that the people in conflict resolve the situation in ways that work best for them rather than someone else determining the resolution for them. Also, MSAC works with clients to schedule mediations at times convenient for them, including evening and weekend times.

Knowing that conflict is a normal and natural part of our lives, it makes sense to find a way to grow and learn as we work to improve our lives and our relationships while we resolve our conflicts.

To contact MSAC, call 717-334-7312, email mediationac@yahoo.com, or check out our website http://mediateadams.org to learn more about mediation or to schedule a mediation for help resolving conflicts with family members, neighbors, contractors, landlords, etc. for an economical fee based on income.

GETTING YOUR FAMILY INTO SCHOOL ROUTINE

By Mary Kay Turner

It is best to start getting children back into school schedule mode a month before school starts, but it can still be done now.  The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following amount of sleep each night by age group:  Toddlers (age 1–2 )— 11-14 hours;  Preschoolers (3–5)—10-13 hours; School age children (6–13)—9-11 hours;  Teenagers (14–17)—8–10 hours; Adults (18–64)—7-9 hours.

In 2018 another concern for parents is screen time— time spent in front of any screen from phone to big screen TV—especially entertainment.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has made recommendations for this; for children up to 18 months old— only parent-approved video-chatting, possibly adding high quality programming for children 18–24 months old, watching with parents to explain what they’re seeing. For age 2–5, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs, parents viewing with their children and talking with them to help them understand what they are seeing.  For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on types of media and time spent on each type. It is very important to make sure that screen time does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity, face-to-face interaction, healthy meals and snacks, and other behaviors essential to good health.  

AAP recommends designated media-free family times, such as dinner, and media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.  Parents must monitor children’s online behavior, and it is important to talk with children about online safety and treating all people with respect online and in person. 

Lauren Hale. a sleep researcher at Stony Brook University in New York, sums up her findings from over a decade of research: “As kids and adults watch or use screens, with light shining in their eyes and close to their faces, bedtime gets delayed. It takes longer to fall asleep, sleep quality is reduced and total sleep time is decreased.”   She learned that this happens especially to people who look at screens in the hour before going to sleep because of the effects of the light from the screens on brains.  She recommends and strictly enforces two rules for her two children: No screens in the hour before bed, no screens in the bedroom and no screens as part of the bedtime routine. 

It is important for parents to be parents and to make decisions for nurturing the health and safety of their children.  Parents set the limits that are important for their children’s well-being, listen to what their children say about their needs, and together set up rules that help children stay safe and alert.  Parents may need to help their children decide what is most important and choose priorities, so they can fit activities they like into their schedules. 

Mediation Services of Adams County (MSAC) Fall Mediation Training is coming November 9, 10, 16, 17!  To get more information contact MSAC:  call 717-334-7312, email mediationac@yahoo.com, or visit our website:  http://mediateadams.org.  Learn about our economical fees based on income or schedule a mediation for help creatively resolving conflicts with family members, neighbors, landlords, etc. 

 

CARING FOR THE CAREGIVER

 By Bob Smith

The January 2016 issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance discusses the cost of caregiving to family members.  Caregiving often falls on one family member.  The National Alliance for Caregiving, as well as AARP, contends that during a recent 12-month period, more than 43 million adults provided caregiving services to family or friends.  The article cites a Rand Corporation report that, nationally,“ the annual value of unpaid caregiving just for the elderly at $522 billion.”

The article goes on to cite a MetLife study that puts the total cost for a caregiver over the time that caregiving is provided at over $324,000, consisting of lost wages ($143,000), lost Social Security benefits ($131,000) and reduced pension benefits ($50,000).  While it is difficult to put a monetary value on the well-being of a loved one no longer able to live independently, it does put into perspective the sacrifice of the caregiver and the monetary, physical and emotional well-being their caregiving extracts.  Going it alone can cause anxiety and resentment. But it doesn’t have to be an individual effort.

The Kiplinger’s article suggests that when the prospect of an extended caregiving situation arises, it is a good idea to hold  a family meeting.  One of the suggestions offered is to have a mediator present to lead the discussion.   A mediator, as an objective and neutral facilitator, can lead the discussion through difficult and sometimes sensitive topics such as the level of care needed, the associated costs, how the costs and the caregiving tasks are to be allocated among the family and possible assistance that may be provided by outside agencies.  The optimal result is that the caregiving for the loved one(s) is provided and the caregiver is supported.

While such caregiving is widespread, it is by no means the only challenge with which families or individuals deal today.  Conflicts can develop between roommates in dividing tasks, between a landlord and a tenant, between neighbors over noise or pets, between co-workers in a business or government environment, between family members over the division of a deceased relative’s assets, or when a relationship is broken. These are examples of when Mediation Services of Adams County (MSAC) can help to bring a fair, realistic and peaceful resolution to a minor conflict before it escalates into a major conflict.

Mediation can be used when the parties in a dispute agree to work together with a trained mediator to find a solution, such as suggested in the Kiplinger’s articles discussed above.  However, perhaps one party in the dispute is not willing to consider mediation.  If so, Conflict Coaching, another service provided by MSAC, can be used.  The conflict coach will listen to her client to discern his needs, issues, and concerns.  The conflict coach will guide her client in discerning the absent disputant’s needs, issues, and concerns.  Options can then be explored to develop the next step.

MSAC provides dispute resolution services that are affordable, on a sliding scale according to income with rates beginning at $10 and increasing to $50 per session.  To speak with an intake coordinator, call 717-334-7312or contact MSAC by email at mediationac@yahoo.com.

CONSIDER FACILITATED DISCUSSION

By Janet M. Powers

Mediators are good at them.  We’re trained to lead two conflicting parties toward common ground and eventual solutions that please both sides.  But sometimes a full mediation is not needed.  Sometimes people who disagree on major issues just need help in talking about those issues to move forward.  They might be stuck on one point and unable to see beyond it.  Or they might need help in exploring alternatives other than the obvious ones.

Mediation Services of Adams County is now adding Facilitated Discussion to its list of available services. We’re doing so because we came to the conclusion that it’s a skill that is fast disappearing as more and more of us spend time on social media rather than in face-to-face conversation.  We’ve also had several occasions to provide facilitated discussions for situations that didn’t seem quite right for mediation but needed the sort of guided discussion skills that mediators provide. Recently, we’ve helped several families resolve thorny problems that at first seemed insoluble.

Often it is more than two people who need this sort of help, usually a group of some kind: a church congregation, a family, a club or a municipality.  Usually the group is split over one or more issues and unable to proceed.  Sometimes there are harsh words, a lot of interrupting and too much yelling.  If this description fits a group that you are part of, you might want to consider calling in a mediator for Facilitated Discussion.  Prolonged wrangling can be hurtful to any group.

Unfortunately, we don’t have good role models these days for civil conversation.  Just by turning on the TV or attending a meeting of a local governing body, we can watch people acting out irresponsibly.  Many talk show hosts and political debate moderators don’t seem to be able to calm down confusion when opposing viewpoints are being aired.  Mediators, however, always set ground rules and require participants to adhere to them by signing contracts.

Mediators are also expert listeners.  They can pick up suggestions or thinly veiled offers that may be lost in the general scramble for the speaker’s floor.  Mediators are also trained to turn what they hear into strategic questions or summary statements.  These comments can enable a group engaged in bitter arguments to begin negotiating with each other in a healthy way.   A good discussion leader is a godsend, but if you don’t happen to have one in your group, then perhaps calling in a mediator is the right answer.

Low-cost fees for Facilitated Discussion are similar to those which MSAC charges for Mediation and Conflict Coaching, based on a sliding income scale ranging from $5 to $50 per 2 to 3-hour session.  Why does it cost so little? The object is to make these services readily available for those on limited budgets. For more information about the various services offered by Mediation Services of Adams County, consult our website: www.mediateadams.org  or call our Help Line at 717-334-7312.

A TRUE STORY: ELDER MEDIATION

By Janet M. Powers

The adult children were at their wits’ end.  Their aging mother was a generous soul, and when anyone phoned seeking funds for charity or a non-profit organization, she willingly agreed.  Money that might be needed for medical care or future move to a nursing home was flowing too easily from her bank account.  Her children wanted to put a block on her phone that would allow only designated callers to get through.  But she wouldn’t hear of it.  What to do?

A friend suggested that they contact Mediation Services of Adams County to see whether a mediator could help the family solve this problem.  Because it was an elder mediation, it took place in the family home.  And unlike mediations involving property settlement or custody issues (requiring two disputants and two mediators), this mediation involved a single mediator and a large number of family members.   Also significant was the fact that the mediator too was a senior citizen.

When a mediator knowledgeable about elder issues is on the family scene, it is often easier to tackle the big questions and help to steer discussion toward a win-win situation.  In this case, the mediator was able to identify with the problem of fund-raising calls and to encourage both parties to look for a way to lessen the number of calls.  After much discussion, the mother eventually agreed to accept the solution that her children had proposed and the problem was resolved.

Often, the presence of a neutral third party is enough to calm the conflict and bring about productive discussion. What did the mediator do that the children were unable to do? For one thing, mediators are trained to reframe a conflict, to put the comments of both sides into language that is less likely to raise hackles.  In this case, the mother also saw the mediator as someone her own age, someone who was an ally, unlike her children who seemed like adversaries.  Even though the mediator was neutral, she was perceived as someone who understood the senior citizen’s point of view.

Mediation, based on a sliding income scale, is an inexpensive way to solve family conflicts. For $10 – $50 per party, a 2- to 3-hour mediation can take place. Even more important for family, there are no winners or losers in mediation.  Rather, the goal is a solution that is agreeable to everyone concerned.  All parties go away satisfied, which makes for continued good relationships.  Possible alternatives, letting the problem fester or going the expensive legal route, may lead to just the opposite: an ongoing family feud.

Senior citizens are sometimes perceived by their adult children as stubborn and unwilling to do the reasonable thing, such as downsizing or moving to a retirement community. An elderly relative may feel overwhelmed by children ganging up on him/her. But the elder outlook, feeling vulnerable or fearing change, gets full attention in mediation when the mediator insists on hearing both sides of an issue.  Being heard and respected is often the key to resolution of conflict, and a mediator can make that happen.

For more information, call 717-334-3712 or check out the MSAC website: www.mediateadams.org   Leave an e-mail for the MSAC Intake Coordinator at mediationac@yahoo.com

Janet M. Powers is an MSAC Board Member and Professor Emerita at Gettysburg College.