Jenni Osborn

Abstract Art

Mentoring in a Pandemic

As I write this we are just a couple of weeks into these new ‘stay at home: save lives’ times: an effective lockdown situation in which we cannot meet with others face to face, except at a distance, not least because most places that would be meeting places are closed due to concerns about the spread of Covid19.

Right now, we are living through a unique situation, one which is affecting every single person on the planet, one which we all pray will not reoccur during our lifetime, one which is impossible to deny or pretend doesn’t exist. You probably have a lot of questions about how we are going to get through this, what will the new normal look or feel like, how will we survive these ‘stay at home’ days?

The truth is: no-one knows. Currently there is no certainty on even when these restrictions will be lifted: they may be in place for a handful of weeks, they might stretch into months and months. The important thing is to find a new ‘normal’, let’s allow ourselves to radically change the way we live and connect with others, let’s invest in this new way of being a community, as the exiled Israelites found themselves doing in Babylon.

What will your mentoring practice look like in these times? Well, we are all struggling with the same restrictions but these will have differing impacts in different families: those whose parents are key workers will have a very different experience to those who are being schooled at home; those for whom family life is difficult for whatever reason will have a different experience to those who find home safe or whose relationships with their immediate family is more positive. As those offering support these are factors to take into consideration. You might send regular text messages, or encouraging video clips, you might arrange video chat catch ups (worth checking out this article from the Times Education Supplement about some of the potential difficulties with Zoom), all of which needs careful safeguarding consideration.

Mentoring with adults is more straightforward in terms of safeguarding, as a youth worker one of the things you can do which will be of benefit to you in the long term at the moment is to get yourself a mentor or practice supervisor. Someone who will listen to you and encourage you to get the best out of your work, your practice. Take a look at this post for more of how this might be of help. There are plenty of ways to meet up virtually in these restricted times, and it would be good to get a regular appointment in your diary at a time when you are not rushing around so much!

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that it is fully worth investing in yourself during this time: practice gratitude; give yourself permission to feel emotions that are unusual; take notice of the thoughts you think and ask whether they are true; take notice of what makes you anxious and what eases that; build time into your regular schedule to record these things, whether it’s written or vocalised; build time into your schedule to talk to someone who can help sort out the strands of thinking, helping you focus on what’s necessary and useful.

I am passionate about supporting youth workers in this way, helping you see the wood for the trees! If you are interested in doing this then get in touch.