Guest Post: Communication is Key

social-mediaMy mother recently passed away and I am grateful for the communication we had about her wishes and preferences for when the time came. She suffered from a chronic illness so the family had time to prepare themselves for her passing and I had the time to prepare to be the Executor of her estate.

How did my mother prepare?

– Many years ago she gave me a copy of her Will and Powers of Attorney for when the time came. This gave me the chance to ask questions and keep my siblings informed of their responsibilities as well.
– She had arranged and prepaid for her funeral. There were still last minute decisions to make but she did not burden us with guessing what she would want.
– She spoke to many of us about our participation during her memorial so that everyone was involved.
– She disposed of the possessions that were closest to her heart prior to her passing so that she could enjoy the gifts she made.
– She asked us to select personal possessions from her home every item we visited. If she wanted to keep them for now our initials were applied to masking tape on the bottom of the item.
– She openly answered questions I had about personal possessions she had not yet documented knowing that I would follow-through on her wishes.

In summary she communicated with all of us. There were very few questions remaining when she passed.

Why is communication necessary? Think of the problems a lack of communication has in your own life. What happens to your career, relationships with your spouse or children or relationships with friends or extended family if there are communication problems?

When it comes to communicating our wishes and preferences I’ve summarized the hurdles to communication into four categories.

The first communication hurdle is the not-invented-here problem of refusing to acknowledge that we are human and believing that accidents and health crisis only happen to other people. Believing we will live a long life gives purpose to our daily lives but can leave our survivors in chaos while they are grieving.

The second communication hurdle is fear that if this information is documented and communicated you will die in the near future. I call this the selfish problem, as you are only thinking about yourself and not the people you leave behind.

The third communication problem is procrastination until the point of no return. Postponing because of other so-called priorities leaves very important information unsaid. Is that dinner party or TV show more important than communicating your wishes?

The fourth problem is missing the opportunity to have the conversation or the time to write it down. Without a goal of communicating important information it never reaches the top of the priority list and remains incomplete. Are family gatherings only for fun and frivolity or are they opportunities to share important information?

In December I wrote a blog titled “Uncomfortable Conversations” but I now wish I had titled it differently. I would now title it “Love, Respect and Communication”.

My mother respected us enough to carry through her wishes without putting ourselves first that she did not hesitate to communicate them openly and frankly with us. She retained her autonomy until the end of her days and expected us to love and respect her in decisions we made at her passing and going forward.

Leslie Knighton, EPC

Posted in Mediation | Leave a comment

Guest Post: The Effects of Divorce on Children


divorce parenting plan

Children have an especially difficult time with divorce. At times, parents neglect to consider the ramifications of the effects of the divorce or separation on their children. Understanding how children will be affected by the divorce and the resulting parental relationships is an important component to helping minimize the emotional turmoil of divorce for children.

One key area in a child’s life where we often see the “fallout” of divorce is in school. In my experiences as a school principal and currently as an Educational Consultant, I routinely experience the negative impact of divorce on children and adolescents. Teachers are most often the first professionals to notice changes in a child’s demeanour, work habits, learning skills and general engagement in school life. Sometimes we notice considerable behavioural changes long before a parent informs the school of the change in family dynamics. It is not uncommon to observe a student become more disorganized, distractible, tired, irritable, sad, or withdrawn. Academics can become negatively impacted, as well as the initiative to seek help from trusted teachers. Adolescents, in particular, can demonstrate avoidance and are more reluctance to talk to teachers or principals about changes in their families.

Some parents choose not to inform the school about their separation or divorce. There are many relevant reasons why they choose not share this pertinent information. For some parents, the lack of financial and community resources prevent them from seeking legal advice, and they make their own arrangements for custody and access. Other parents feel embarrassed to tell the school principal or teacher. The diverse cultural community in most schools impacts how open parents are to allow school personnel to support students going through difficult family times. In many cultures, women are left to provide for their children, sometimes without any financial or emotional support from fathers. Their culture informs them to keep family issues private, and this belief is passed on to their children.

Once a principal is informed that parents are separated, they are then able to access a variety of supports for the parents and children not only within the school, but in the community. It is not uncommon for principals, along with school social workers, to assist in directing parents to appropriate professionals to gain information about the rights of the child when parents separate. The Office of the Children’s Lawyer in Ontario can be very helpful. Principals are also able to provide translators so parents are better able to navigate often confusing information.

Children, no matter what their age, are almost always impacted academically, emotionally, socially and sometimes physically when parents separate. Without a confidential, collaborative approach between parents, schools and professionals, many students will not have their complex needs addressed.

NL logo
T: 416.886.7552                              

Posted in Children, Family Law, Mediation, Parenting Coordination | Leave a comment

Cultural Competence: Where does it begin?



I attended the Academy of Professional Family Mediators (APFM) in the fall of 2014 in beautiful San Diego with Elizabeth Hyde, Lene Madsen and Jennifer Suzar, distinguished mediators from Ontario.

I have been speaking on the topic of cultural competency in mediation for the last several years. I often find participants eager to find the “steps” or rather “answers” to working with clients that they consider to be culturally different. In my session at the APFM, one of the participants raised her hand and proposed that she start her mediation by asking her clients to talk about their cultural values. Eager to make a point, I asked her the same question. She looked at me and paused, realizing that she didn’t really know how to express her so-called cultural values.

This was one of those “a-ha” moments that demonstrate how often we think that our clients, visible minorities in particular, can talk about their culture. Culture is often not easily articulated in a conversation, but rather, it is part of the way we live.

Culture is a shared experience, influencing values, beliefs, attitudes, and interactions. It is passed on from generation to generation and provides members with an ability to identify with a group and differentiate from other cultural groups. It includes the knowledge that people need to have in order to function effectively in their social environment. This knowledge is created in sets of rules and social standards that govern behaviors considered acceptable, they are often not spoken rather they are just known. It has been referred to as the collective glue that maintains individuals’ connections to the cultural milieu.

It’s important to recognize that the actions of culture are in the rules that produce the behaviors, not the behaviors themselves. This is an important differentiation. Individuals are not fixed within culture and experience different degrees of inclusion within various cultural groups. Culture is not static. Roles and expectations can change over time and can be influenced by other cultures, especially in today’s global society.

So, it’s understandable why it is not surprising that members of a cultural group may be unable to describe the set of roles, expectations, and values even though they may be proficient in the cultural behaviors of the group. Nevertheless, culture plays a vital role in the lives of children and families, regardless of their level of consciousness about the reasons for their behaviors.

We, as mediators, also work by our own cultural values, and this may indeed impact the mediation. Living in this incredibly diverse city calls upon family law professionals to critically reflect on how they are relating to their clients and the assumptions they bring to the table. Cultural competency involves recognizing the dynamic interplay of the various cultures at the table, including our own.

It would be wise to reflect on the question of your own cultural values before asking the person across the table. It is through this dialogue where the development of cultural competency begins.

Posted in Mediation | 2 Comments

Ten tips for “moving the mediation”

Negotiation Competition

Check out our Ten tips for “moving the mediation” in our latest infographic.

Posted in Mediation | Tagged | 1 Comment

What happens in family mediation?

IMG_0784Learn all about the Family Mediation process in our new infographic.



Posted in Mediation | 1 Comment

2015 Training Courses

Riverdale Mediation Logo-green

Riverdale Mediation is happy to note that over 250 professionals have attended our 2014 Family Dispute Resolution courses! The courses contained LSUC CPD professionalism hours for lawyers and the feedback has been truly amazing.

What our participants are saying:

“I was quite impressed with the material, agenda, and presentation! Great ability to bring clarity to the class and address myths.”

“Loved the course! Best intellectual discussion I’ve had since grad school!”

“Our presenter gave a wonderful and practical approach to negotiation and mediation.”

Over the past year, a growing number of mental health, social work and financial professionals have been attending our courses and we are excited to see the growth of ADR as a diverse profession and practice around Ontario and throughout Canada.

If you want to become an accredited family mediator, we hope you will train with us!

2015 Winter/Spring Training Course Schedule

Course Dates Length
Introduction to ADR Jan. 21-23 3 Days
Family Law Mar. 23-26 4 Days
Screening for Family Violence Apr. 13-15 3 Days
Basic Family Mediation and Negotiation May 7-8, 11-13 5 Days


Our 2015 Fall Course Schedule will be posted as soon as the dates have been confirmed.

Interested in our courses? Click here to find learn more.

Posted in Mediation | 2 Comments