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Elder Care and Child Rearing: When Power Can't Be Equalized

Elder Care and Child Rearing: When Power Can't Be Equalized

Author: Marlene Johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand the challenge of involving individuals with unequal power in a conflict resolution process.

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Elder Care and Child Rearing: When Power Can't be Equalized

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The conflict resolution process is based on the principle of equalized power. When parties are in conflict, they have the opportunity to come together, and each party can share their interests equally. So what happens if that's not possible, if one of the parties is unable to do that?

Well, I'm Marlene, and today I'd like to talk with you about a couple of different situations where that may be challenging. We have parties that aren't able to share their interests equally. Now, when does this happen? Well, most typically it happens with minors. We have children who are unable to express their interests, very young children, or minors under the age of 18 who legally cannot represent themselves. So that's one instance. And we have child care conflict resolution set up for that instance.

Then you notice here elder care. We have elder care conflict resolution. And this is a form of conflict resolution that is set up to help deal with situations where an elder has lost the mental capacity to make their own decisions. Now, let's start by talking about elder care conflict resolution. This is most often used when families are making care decisions about an elderly parent.

Now, I want to stop here and say that whenever possible the elderly parent should be brought into the conflict resolution process. Quite often the infirmity might be physical. Perhaps mom or dad cannot stay at home any longer because they're frail. And they're not able to get around without, perhaps, falling. They need a lot of help in the home. There are physical ailments that are causing them not to be safe. But mentally they're very sharp.

And I think quite often we might assume, because they're older and they're frail, that we're going to make decisions for them. Families have a tendency to want to do that. You know, sons and daughters will get together and start talking about what are we going to do about mom. She's a danger to herself. She can't stay in the home. And they're talking about mom, and mom's not there. Well, if mom is mentally able to be there, she should be there.

So elder care conflict resolution always seeks to include the elder when that person is capable of being at the table. But there may be times when mom can't be there, or dad, or whoever it is that you're seeking care for, because of mental incapacity. It could be dementia, early onset dementia, or Alzheimer's, or some other form of mental incapacity that will not allow this person to express their interests. So in that case, the person will not be able to be at the table. And as an intervener you will be working with the family members to find a way to represent the interests of this person as best you can, when the person is not able to be there and really express their interests.

So that's one example. And this is a special form of conflict resolution, elder care conflict resolution, that's been set up to help families work with this situation. Now, the second situation where you have a party that's perhaps not able to express their interests equally is child care conflict resolution. Now, child care conflict resolution is often used to make parenting decisions, parenting plans, particularly in the cases of divorce or separated parents.

So if you have divorced parents looking to come together and work out some sort of parenting plan, where is the child going to live, with which parent, what about visiting rights, there's any number of issues that would need to be worked out. If you have a very young child, a toddler who can't express their needs, of course they're not going to be part of that process. And decisions will be made for them.

If you have a child who's seven or eight, they are not going to be part of the process, but it's important to include them in ways that are appropriate, to talk to the child about their needs, their wants. Maybe they've been spending a lot of time with dad. They're more comfortable with dad at this point than with mom. So taking into consideration the child's wishes is key. It's very critical and important here. It's just that the child is too young to be part of the process when the parents are in a room discussing something.

Now, for an older teen, legally a teen or older child has to be 18 in order to make their own decisions. So anyone under 18 does not have that legal right. But if you have an older child, say someone 16 or 17 who's mature and wanting to share, wanting to be part of this, you may bring that person into the room. That child might come in and be part of the process. However, the understanding is, of course, that the child does not have the legal standing to speak for themselves. But if you can bring them in and it's appropriate, they're mature and old enough, that certainly is possible.

So these are two specific kinds of conflict resolution processes, childcare conflict resolution most often used in parenting plans, and elder care conflict resolution, which is used many times to help families make decisions about the care of elderly parents. And when it's possible to include someone in one of these conflict resolution processes, it should be done. And in all cases the intervener and the family members should take into consideration what's best and what the family member may want. But there may be times because of age or mental capacity that the party themselves cannot be there to equally share their interests. So thank you for joining me, and I look forward to next time.

  • Elder Care Conflict Resolution

    Conflict resolution as applied to issues of care for older people who have lost the capacity to represent their own interests effectively.

  • Child Care Conflict Resolution

    Conflict resolution as applied to issues of care for minor children who have not yet developed the capacity to represent their own interests effectively or who lack legal standing (by virtue of age) to do so.