In this third blog Emma reflects on 2020 and her experience of being a mediator during the global pandemic. Over to you Emma……
The end is in sight. The end of 2020, that is. And thank goodness for that. This time last year few of us could have predicted what was coming our way and how all of our lives would change so dramatically. Not being able to go to work, not being able to see our family, our kids not going to school. Life was just unrecognisable and for those who lost loved ones to Covid-19, things would never be the same again. As we come out of another period of lockdown, I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on how my professional life as a mediator has changed this year.
Family mediators were faced with a whole range of new challenges in 2020. They had to adapt their way of working very quickly, while supporting their clients with issues no-one had really faced before. Issues such as parents having very different views on the seriousness of the pandemic and whether their child or children should be going out in public, arrangements for a child to spend time with the parent who they didn’t live with being hindered or stopped and for many, the pressure of living with a partner 24/7 when the relationship was already difficult being too much and the relationship ending. Then no-one being able to move out. Really difficult situations and often no right answers!
What was also clear was the challenges that 2020 brought put people’s lives and relationships into perspective and propelled action. Change, whatever form it took, needed to happen for many people. This could mean the end of a relationship or it could mean that people valued the relationships they had even more. They wanted a better relationship with their children, wanted to spend more time with them. A result of people wanting change meant a lot of family mediators became even busier.
But with the government advising that those who could work from home, should work from home, family mediators quickly had to adapt. Face-to-face meetings were just not possible and online mediation sessions were the only alternative for those wishing to proceed. Although lots of family mediators had offered online mediation before, many had not. Me included. The take-up of Zoom and other video conferencing forums increased rapidly and webinars and tutorials were endured. I even admit to roping family members across the country to help me while I worked out how to set up a Waiting Room or a Break Out room. But the work paid off and, in my opinion, online mediation has been a positive development to family mediation at this incredibly difficult time. Apart from the fact that it has allowed family mediation meetings to actually take place during lockdown, online mediation also allows clients more flexibility when setting up meetings around their busy home and work schedules. It also means that they are at home, where they feel safe and secure and therefore possibly feel more comfortable to discuss difficult issues. It also provides an element of separation from the other person for those who find it too intense or difficult to be in the same room with. Online mediation will not be right for everyone and face-to-face meetings will always have a place, but now there is another way of working for clients to consider.
We will all be glad to see the end of 2020 and while the pressure, difficulties and pain that this year has brought us are undeniable, when I look back at my professional life, I feel proud. I feel proud of myself and of my fellow mediators in the way we have changed the way we work, as I truly believe the work we do makes a difference, in whatever form it takes.