I have heard so many remarks about bullying, prejudice and demoralisation and how human relationships are in crisis.
I recently attended the 2020 On-Line Family Mediators Association (FMA) Annual Conference. The theme was mediating in a time of Change and trying to determine what is “the new normal in family mediation”?
At a time when there seems to be so much despair amongst families who are struggling due to financial worries and no end of other troubles as the list is endless.
A lot of time was devoted at the Conference in reviewing the role of Family Mediators who have a strong sense of wishing to facilitate conversation. Like everybody else, there is a need for mediators to adapt and change but how far does this take us? Whatever we do, family mediators by their nature are out there to do what comes naturally to them…. Mediate.
I believe that mediation is a process that involves kindness and compassion. We need a proper understanding of mental health and how it affects people not only during Covid but also when it comes to dealing with the difficult decisions to be made when divorcing and separating. We too have to look after ourselves as we do others and to address our own mental health.
We have seen our divorce system change following the Divorce Act 2020 and are mediating in times of change which requires resourcefulness and resilience alongside compassion to achieve to help protect the wellbeing of families and mediators in times of isolation and change.
Compassion must be twinned with finding objective, reliable and safe outcomes in mediation to eliminate the weaponising of children who are so distressed when parents are in dispute and who live in fear of being left without seeing either one of their parents. Then there is the fear of responsibility being placed on children who also suffer from mental health problems, anxiety and eating disorders to mention a few, because we have been living in uncertain times. The mediator has to be aware of the impact of these problems and to work to understand possible cultural differences in order to be effective in helping people to make change that will help to rebuild better family communication, trust and fairness.
Mediators are not angels but they are usually very patient and willing to join in with the discussions between parties who are in dispute to find the next step in trying to move forward. The parenting relationship never stands still. Neither the court nor family law practitioners can make changes for others but it is possible to work towards minimising the areas of dispute so that minds can start working towards building a better future and to concentrate on making adult and children’s lives better now and in the future.
Tricia Muzalewski, FMC and Law Society Accredited Family Mediator
Wynn Mediation October 2020