At the age of 15 the relationship between Charlie* and his mother was already under huge strain. With his school attendance dropping and his use of recreational drugs increasing, it started to break down further but a referral from school to the YMCA Family Mediation service at the Youth Advice Centre was able to offer them both some space to sort things out and to get some ideas of how things might be different.
A year previously Charlie’s parents had separated in difficult circumstances. He had gone to live with Dad in the next town while his younger brother stayed in the family home with Mum. Charlie felt more and more isolated and wanted to move back. He had stayed at his existing school but as his attendance started to become sporadic the school pastoral team engaged and looked at ways of supporting him.
Initially a YMCA mediator met with Charlie’s mother. She was able to speak about her worries over Charlie’s angry outbursts and of her fears that he was turning out ‘like his dad’. This was concerning to all parties because there was a history of domestic abuse. She had literally locked Charlie out of her house until she saw what she called ‘a change in his behaviour’. With the help of the mediator she was able to draw up a draft document that listed what she felt needed to happen before she would let him back in to the house.
Later in the week the mediator met Charlie and talked to him about the meeting with Mum and showed him the document. The mediator recorded Charlie’s reactions and added his ideas to the document. They were also able to start identifying what it was about events in his life that still upset him. For Charlie it was crucial that trust was re-established and that it was safe enough for him to start rebuilding his relationship with his Mum.
The following week the mediator, Charlie and his mum met on-site at school and were able to take it in turns to explore how each was feeling about the current situation. As well as being able to talk about their anger and frustration they also acknowledged their level of care for each other.
Over the course of the next four meetings they both contributed ideas to the setting of new boundaries, made compromises and agreed a plan that they were going to trial for the next three months.
By the end of that time Charlie had moved back to the family home, his school attendance improved, he had seen his GP to check up on his health and agreed to be referred into counselling.
Find out more about the Youth Advice Centre here.
*Name and photo have been changed to protect the identity of the young person.