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“What happened? Let’s listen to both sides of the story…” Moms are natural mediators, we help kids resolve their conflicts all day long.

But when it comes to our own problems with neighbors, co-workers or our kids’ schools, we can feel frazzled and helpless. Calling police is stressful, courts expensive, and neither guarantees resolution.  Community Mediation is a practical (and practically free) solution for community disputes in a growing number of cities nationally. This week, Statewide Mediation Week in California, is a great time to put some helpful numbers on your fridge for when it you need support working out a conflict.

·National Association for Community Mediation you can find a mediator in your area

·If you are in the Bay Area call Community Boards, San Francisco’s non-profit conflict resolution center 415-920-3820

I run Community Boards ( where we help hundreds of people every year reach mutually satisfying solutions with the help of trained neutral mediators. And it costs next to nothing. Before I became a mom and Community Boards’ director, I was a disputant, in terrible conflict with a housemate. Now, fifteen years later, that antagonist is my friend and colleague. We wouldn’t enjoy collegiality if a small claims court had forced us into a cookie-cutter resolution. Mediation builds community in the place of strife.

For Natalie, mediation saved her home: “My three kids make lots of happy kid noise and our dog barks, and my downstairs neighbor was going nuts. She complained to our landlord and even called the police one night because of the noise. I was terrified we’d get evicted. Every time my kid hollered I’d get a stomach-ache. I didn’t think mediation would work, but the mediator helped us remain calm and to come up with a solution together that everyone could live with.”

For Jenny, mediation saved her job and a friendship. “I started a small business with my good friend, but things started to sour when I had to miss work because of my son’s chronic ear aches. She wanted me to give her a larger share of the business, and I wanted all the energy I put into our start- up to matter and to get the flexibility I wanted from self-employment. We sat down with neutral mediators who really helped us air the problems, appreciate each other’s grievances and save our business and relationship.”

How I wish I could get Glenn Beck to the peace table, and I’d give my eye teeth to mediate Republicans and Democrats through the health care bill! But while we can’t use mediation for all our problems, for many quality of life issues, it can make a huge difference.

And let’s talk about being good role models for our kids. When we can show them that grown-ups also have problems and that we can get help to work out peaceable solutions, we’re showing them how to live peaceably in this world.

Darlene Weide is the Executive Director of Community Boards, mediator and trainer. Sbe lives with her family in San Francisco.

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