5K Relationship breakdown and re-partnering
The Family Treehouse: supporting adolescents and their parents with communication coaching and facilitated conversations
After 25 years of providing alternative dispute resolution services to the Canberra community, the Conflict Resolution Service [CRS] (Canberra, 1988) recognized the need for a program designed specifically for adolescents and their parents. CRS understood from their own practice and Family Dispute Resolution literature the importance of including the ‘Voice of The Child’, and were keen to engage young people using the same respectful processes helpful in deescalating conflict between adults. CRS was particularly concerned with the number of presenting teenagers at risk of homelessness due to family relationship breakdown. The Family Treehouse (Canberra, 2012) program was developed to address the communication breakdown between adolescents and their parents, and the spiralling patterns of conflict that threaten their capacity to live together when issues are unresolved.
This presentation will discuss the delivery of the Family Treehouse program and the process its participants are guided through. These processes include communication coaching to support: the recognition and articulation of feelings and needs; assertiveness; de-escalation techniques; understanding the developmental tasks of adolescence; and the development of coping strategies. Case studies are included to demonstrate the suitability of this program’s approach for young people and their families across a wide range of socioeconomic sectors in the community. These include adolescents in single-parent families, dual-parent families, blended families, and CALD and Indigenous families.
This presentation will conclude with insights gained from working with Family Treehouse clients, including the possibility of: deeper levels of engagement with adolescents; earlier identification of a young person’s individual psycho-social needs; inclusion and support for parents willing to acknowledge oppressive family practices and engage in restorative processes; more clarity in identifying the need for mental health support for either the adolescent or the parent; and a deepening understanding of the role of ‘parental presence’ in adolescents’ lives. We are keen to share and discuss the discoveries we have made over the past 6 years and look forward to hearing about further developments and contributions to this area of practice.
After an early career in teaching, Janine returned to university in 2001 to improve her understanding of family systems, communication, and alternative dispute resolution. After completing two degrees and her national accreditation as a mediator, she pursued a career in alternative dispute resolution, including community sector work with families entrenched in post separation and divorce conflict. This work gave her the opportunity to consult with each family member, and understand their perspectives of family conflict. She developed her mediation skills in the private and public sector before returning to the community sector where she was a key consultant in the development and implementation of the Conflict Resolution Service’s new program, the Family Treehouse Program. She is currently team leader of this program, where she is challenged and delighted by the many opportunities she has to listen to teenagers, and support them in resolving their conflicts with their parents.