It is a trying time for everyone, especially parents of children who may have decided to part ways for good. Whilst the adults may have decided that it is best to be separated or to divorce each other, and this may undoubtedly be for good reasons, there exist between them the offspring(s) of their union and intimate connection once.
Being young and vulnerable, we urge parents to consider the following for their children during this period of the COVID19 Pandemic. May your differences, pain and or hurt be parked temporarily aside, so that you may co-parent effectively to ensure your children’s needs are met, and their safety considered.
This is not meant to disregard the gravity of the situation each adult has gone through. Due care must be given to each person. This is not to say also, that parents have not been looking into the needs of their children.
Research and experience have informed us that there is usually the possibility that children’s well-being may be overlooked in the midst of the conflict, pain, tension and or acrimony between the parting adults. Of course, there are varying degrees of these.
At the point of writing, some parents may be in the midst or in the centre of their separation or divorce proceedings, may you proceed with kindness and gentleness, especially towards each other, and keep your focus on your children.
1. BE HEALTHY.
Comply with all government measures introduced and or imposed, and model good behaviour for your children with intensive hand-washing, wiping down surfaces and other objects that are frequently touched, and maintaining social distancing. If possible, avoid going out, especially to places where there are many people. Download the TraceTogether App to help yourself with the contact tracing when the need arises. The consideration here is that when you are out with your kids, it is even harder for you to recall close contacts with people because you are personally in a very trying situation; apart from the COVID19 situation. This also means BE INFORMED. Stay in touch with the most reliable media sources and avoid the rumour mill on social media.
2. BE MINDFUL.
Be honest about the seriousness of the pandemic with your children, maintain a calm attitude and convey to them your belief that everything will return to normal in time. Use appropriate language, or stories to convey the message. Ask them to question, or play a quiz with them to ensure they understand. Roleplay with them and observe their responses. Roleplay the desired behaviours if necessary, and invite them to repeat after you the desired behaviour. Avoid making careless comments in front of the children and exposing them to endless media coverage intended for adults. Don’t leave the news on 24/7, for instance. Encourage your children to ask questions and express their concerns. Parents you want to answer them truthfully at a level that is age-appropriate.
3. BE COMPLIANT with court orders and access agreements.
Try your very best to refrain from reinventing the wheel despite the unusual circumstances. The access agreement or court order exists to prevent endless haggling over the details of timesharing. In some situation, there may be orders stipulating that if schools are closed, access should remain in force as though school were still in session.
4. BE CREATIVE.
It would be silly to expect that nothing will change when people are being advised not to travel overseas, and holiday attractions such as theme parks, museums and entertainment venues are taking strict measures, some even closing all over the island and the world. Some parents may have to work extra hours to help deal with the crisis and other parents may be out of work or working reduced hours for a time. Plans will inevitably have to change. Encourage closeness with the parent who is not going to see the child through shared books, movies, games and FaceTime or Skype and all its likes.
5. BE TRANSPARENT.
Provide honest information to your co-parent about any suspected or confirmed exposure to the virus, and try to agree on what steps each of you will take to protect the child from exposure. Certainly both parents should be informed at once if the child is exhibiting any possible symptoms of the virus. Importantly, stay calm, make a visit to the nearest clinic donning on a mask, and allow the doctor to take the necessary actions if required. Keep the other parent updated if one parent has taken the child or children to the doctor.
6. BE GENEROUS.
Provide makeup time to the parent who missed out, if at all possible. Family law judges expect reasonable accommodations when they can be made and will take seriously concerns raised in later filings about parents who are inflexible in highly unusual circumstances.
7. BE UNDERSTANDING.
There is no doubt that the pandemic will pose an economic hardship and lead to lost earnings for many, many parents, both those who are paying child support and those who are receiving child support. The parent who is paying should try to provide something, even if it cannot be the full amount. The parent who is receiving payments should try to be accommodating under these challenging and temporary circumstances.
Adversity can become an opportunity for parents to come together and focus on what is best for the child. For many children, the strange days of the pandemic will leave vivid memories. It is important for every child to know and remember that both parents did everything they could to explain what was happening and to keep them safe.
Nicholas Gabriel Lim
Adapted from the guidelines provided by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.