Ewan Aitken: Ensure family rows do not escalate

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EVERY year a staggering 5000 young people become homeless due to relationships at home breaking down. For those whose early life is blighted by family fall-outs, lasting resentments can cause emotional scarring that can be carried into adulthood. For those who become homeless, life chances are very often ruined.

In April 2014, the Cyrenians’ Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution (SCCR), was set up to help address this. It grew out of the Cyrenians Amber Mediation service, Scotland’s longest-running dedicated mediation and homelessness prevention service for young people. The SCCR is a national resource promoting and supporting best practice in conflict resolution, mediation and early intervention.

It helps young people and their families seek help before it reaches crisis point through its national “Stop. Talk. Listen” campaign, innovative series of training, seminars, and resource-rich website.

The Cyrenians set up the SCCR to raise the profile of mediation but perhaps more importantly, to challenge the assumption that is deeply embedded in the Scottish cultural psyche that conflict means a relationship is broken and aggression is required. Sadly, some well known sporting figures, in political debates – especially in the run-up to the election – amongst the so-called “celebrity classes” and people who use social media reinforce this destructive view.

Every family argues. It’s part of life. But when the conflict is not well handled, sometimes it can escalate to crisis point and can lead to young people becoming homeless. SCCR’s campaign to “Stop. Talk. Listen” when conflict arises is a way of talking openly about what we argue about and that conflict is normal – it’s what we do about it that matters most.

The Stop. Talk. Listen campaign asks the public to upload a selfie to a specially designed social media wall – sharing: what’s been the biggest cause of arguments at home? We want to get people thinking about how these can often be the tip of the iceberg and how they can stop, talk and listen to avoid longer-term resentments and fall-outs.

Though the campaign is rightly aimed at families, it’s also particularly relevant for the political debate raging around us at present. We’d have a much better understanding of all the parties’ views and their differences if they stoped before responding, talked only when its their turn and listened to each other and to the voters, and I mean really listen, not just waiting to reply. It would help us understand their views better and let them show lived leadership in challenging Scotland’s conflict culture.

Ewan Aitken is chief executive of the Cyrenians