Denise had been having a lot of conflict with her mom. Her mother, Sharon, had been hoping the two of them would be able to work things out on their own, but things had continued to get worse between them and eventually Denise went to live with her aunt. After staying with her aunt for a few months, Denise got in some trouble. She ended up getting arrested and her aunt told her she could no longer stay with her. After that, Denise went to live with her Dad, but he didn’t have the space for Denise to stay comfortably full-time. Denise was working with a social worker who decided to refer Denise and her mother to mediation with CCR.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Denise and Sharon participated in mediation via Zoom. The mediator began the mediation by checking in with each of them privately to discuss the mediation and see if they had any concerns. Sharon told the mediator she was really angry about Denise’s behavior and was not happy to be at the mediation. She said she felt like she didn’t know what else to do and that if Denise continued to misbehave she would have to ask her to move out permanently. Denise told the mediator she was optimistic about having a conversation with her mother, that the two of them had not really had a conversation in months that didn’t result in yelling, and that she was nervous she might need a break when her mom got angry. The mediator and Denise made a plan that if Sharon was yelling and Denise felt overwhelmed, she could ask for a time out and the mediator would stop the mediation.
Denise was right to be concerned about Sharon’s anger. Early in the mediation the mediator found it very difficult to help the two women speak with one another. Sharon was so upset that she could not contain herself and often spoke over Denise, raising her voice. This would cause Denise to raise her voice and repeatedly the mediator found them in a screaming match. The mediator realized the parties would need to make a better plan for how to communicate in order to have a positive experience in mediation.
The mediator brought each party into another private meeting and talked to them about how they were engaging one another. In the meeting with Sharon, the mediator gave Sharon the opportunity to express the anger she was feeling. The mediator listened while Sharon got louder and angrier, her voice trembling as she recounted all her efforts to support Denise. Once she finished, the mediator summarized everything back and checked in with her to see how she felt about moving forward. Sharon said she felt much calmer after her outburst and wanted to continue the conversation. When the mediator met privately with Denise she learned that Denise was really apologetic about her previous behavior and that she wanted to come home and live with her mother. The mediator was surprised to hear this, as it had not been said when the parties were together. The mediator spent time with Denise making a plan for how she would ask her mother if she could come home. Then the mediator brought the two of them back together.
It wasn’t an easy conversation, but both parties were calmer and more focused and, with the mediator’s help, they were able to keep talking. Denise asked to come live with her mom again and the two of them agreed on a set of expectations for living together. The agreement included obligations for both Sharon and Denise and the two left the mediation in good spirits, ready to share a home again.