Our colleague, Dr. Dale Bagshaw, offers practical advice and helpful tips for parents to help and guide their children during the lock-down.
When families separate, it can be a sad time for some people, especially for the children, and for parents and grandparents when separated from their children or grandchildren after the break-up. This sadness can increase if children are physically separated from one parent and their grandparents and other members of their extended family during a COVID-19 virus’ lock-down’ period.
Children caught up in the conflict and tension of a family break-up may feel anxious, sad, confused, left out, angry, depressed, or even torn between parents who are dealing with anger and other stresses associated with separation – and these feelings can intensify during the current crisis.
Although this can be a stressful time, try not to fight or argue in front of the children, face-to-face, or when on the phone, as it will increase their anxiety.
Depending on the age of the children, separated families may be able to arrange for children to have meaningful time in each parent’s household, depending on the distancing rules that are placed in your location. If that is not possible, encourage the children to have meaningful and regular contact with both parents and their grandparents – face to face is best but regular contact by telephone (face time), skype or zoom, emails and/or letters can reassure children that they are wanted and loved.
If parents are able to settle their differences and treat each other with respect, it will be reassuring for children to see their parents cooperating during this otherwise stressful time.
Remember that grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins are very important sources of support for children. Phone calls, emails, cards, or a visit can help children to stay connected and feel that they are still part of a family. Make sure that your children can feel free to contact their relatives on both sides of the family – children grieve when they are not able to see people that they are close to.
If you have another partner after separation, and there are children from different families, make sure that they all feel loved and included.
If you are able, take the time to play with your children every day.
If any of your children show signs of being depressed, make sure that you get help for them from someone they love and trust or an expert children’s counsellor – some may Be working online via zoom or skype.
If you, as a parent, are physically unable to be with your children, arrange to spend time with friends or family so that you do not feel lonely, and the children are reassured that you are OK.
If a problem arises, get the facts and make a plan; don’t worry alone – talk to others and ask for help. If you feel depressed or anxious, make sure that you get help from your friends or family – you can also ring a telephone Helpline.
While children, in general, like to see their parents together, there are circumstances when this may not be safe or of benefit for the children. If you and/or your children have experienced violence and abuse, you should not think that you need to spend time with your abusive partner for the benefit of your children. If you or your children feel unsafe, receive threats or experience violence or abuse, contact your Emergency phone number or a Domestic Violence Helpline.”
Dale Bagshaw, Adelaide, Australia
image by aaron burden, unspash.com