Re: Don't discuss this in committees/children-long
From: Elizabeth Stevenson (
Date: Thu, 21 Nov 2002 12:47:02 -0700 (MST)
Regardless of the problem, if it affects the community, it's going to get
talked about anyway, so you might as well have that in the controlled
environment of a general meeting. An ad hoc committee composed of people who
are known to be caring and good at problem solving, or an already existing
conflict resolution committee can help to clarify the issues beforehand, and
help facilitate discussion with the family.

It is one of the things that is difficult in community; all that sharing is
great when things are good, but maybe not so great when sensitive issues
arise. We have had our share of these. One past incident involved some
pretty serious illegal activity by a teenager, and included stealing from
the community. This unfolded over many months, so I can't say or remember
everything that was done.

But the issue had to be discussed, because it did affect everyone. It was
painful for the mother, but she understood the need. There were times she
did not want to be present when we were discussing it, and did as Sharon
described below. Having one person who was a go-between helped her save some
dignity and us to speak freely about it in the meeting.

At all times we needed to keep uppermost in our minds that these were valued
members of our community, and not to let the conversation degrade into
gossip or bad-mouthing. The go-between also served as her support in this
bad time for her, being the person she could talk to with no fear of private
conversation being repeated unless she wanted it to be.

My advice would be to discuss the issue, as sensitively as you can. It is
painful to know that people are talking about you, but at the same time,
each member has a responsibility toward the community to deal with problems
that become public. I have had to do this before, and the support that has
come from the community can be a pleasant surprise to one who is suffering.

I'd like to add something related to this discussion: In the case of
children's behavior, these kinds of problems are very thorny. All kinds of
very deeply felt emotions are ready to erupt. Parents trying their best,
childrearing differences, community frustration, gossip masquerading as
concern, concern being misinterpreted - it's a mine field.

One thing that has helped our community grow in a whole wonderful new way is
the new tradition (okay, that's an oxymoron, but bear with me) that we have
of "inservices" on our children at general meetings. It started with one
child, when we found the need for people other than his parents (me and my
husband) to know how to deal with his special needs. I gave a presentation,
and the outpouring of support was overwhelming. It turns out many people had
misperceptions and everyone appreciated the new information. It went so well
that we decided to do it for every child. The parents talk about how the
child reacts to different situations, how they parent the child, what they
want you to do when their child is doing something you don't want them to
do, etc. This allows for all the parents to feel that their parenting style
is being respected, and the children can then expect a certain degree of
consistency from the adults. It's not all about problems, it focuses on
strengths as well. "My child would love to do gardening with someone, since
I hate it, and he loves it." That sort of thing.

In this way, too, the people without children get to know the parents and
children better, and know more about what their role is, and what is
expected of them.

Living in community is an opportunity to change how we relate to each other
in a positive way, to rethink old patterns. If we don't take advantage of
that, it seems a shame to work so hard to build it.

Liz Stevenson
Southside Park Cohousing
Sacramento, California
tamgoddess [at]
> From: Sharon Villines <sharon [at]>

> On 11/21/02 11:54 AM, "Becky Schaller" <bschaller [at]> wrote:
>> Some people felt that the community needed to respect this persons request.
>> They were already going through such a very difficult time and community
>> discussion would only add to their distress.  Others felt like this was a
>> community issue and we needed to discuss it and deal with it as well as we
>> could.  This was an issue which was dividing the community into different
>> camps and needed to be dealt with.
> It isn't clear from your description which issue is dividing the community
> -- the issue that was upsetting one household or the issue of how to deal
> with the issue upsetting one household.
> We have had more than one instance where one household had a personal crisis
> that they were not ready to talk about. The way this was dealt with was one
> person was asked by the household to be the designated link and
> communicator. That way someone close to the household had all the
> information including what the household wanted shared and how they wanted
> it shared and could assure the rest of the community that things were going
> as well as could be expected. People could also approach this person with
> offers of help and that person could make arrangements with the household or
> tell the person offering the service that it wasn't necessary.
> This has worked very well for all concerned. The household had their privacy
> and the rest of the community felt that they were doing all they could and
> would be informed if anything else was needed. Explaining a difficult
> situation to 43 other households can be very difficult.
> We have also had very good experiences with parents sharing information
> about their children and how they wanted them treated on the private list
> for members. Things like what to say and not say to my child about my
> illness, how to cope with my child's difficult behavior, etc. A tremendous
> help.
> Transparency is so important in building trust and comfort. Share
> information.
> Sharon
> -- 
> Sharon Villines
> Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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