Our mediator Sarah-Jane Turnbull was on BBC Radio Newcastle on 16th April talking to Lisa Shaw about the issues separated parents can face during the coronavirus crisis. Clients have told us they found this conversation helpful, so we thought we’d put together an extract of what they discussed plus our responses to some of the questions that separated parents are asking us right now.
“We know that during the lockdown parents who are separated are allowed to see their children BUT we’ve also been told that it’s better if they stay in one home to reduce the risk. - this puts parents in an incredibly difficult situation doesn’t it....”
“Everyone’s individual circumstances right now are very difficult. We’re all facing lots of challenges. Some people are feeling lonely at home desperate for company and some are craving some space from their family.
And being a separated parent has its own challenges in the best of times never mind during a lockdown. But there is support available.
The government have now clarified that even in the lockdown children can travel between households in order to maintain contact with both parents. As always, it is up to parents to decide what they think the best arrangements for their children should be. Whether they should stick to previous arrangements or make some changes to try to minimise the amount of travel.
So, there may be some decisions that need to be made. Some separated parents can find it really difficult to talk to each other and may struggle to have these conversations about what to do.
There is support available. Family mediation can help them to have these discussions and work out what they think the best decision is for their children.”
“If one parent is insistent on seeing their children but the other would rather they remain apart - what would be the best way to approach this?”
“The same as they would any other decision about their children, which is to make that decision together by talking to each other.
We know that 50% of all communication is non-verbal, through body language, facial expressions so it’s best to have these discussions face to face.
Of course, this isn’t possible within the lockdown at the moment. But it is still possible to achieve this communication. For example, at Family Mediation North East we’re currently offering all appointments remotely and conducting our appointments through video-conferencing. This is working really well, and a few clients have told us they’ve found it easier to talk to their ex-partners this way.
So parents could first try to talk to each other through video-conferencing about how they wish to handle the arrangements.
However, we know how difficult in can be to talk to your ex-partner so if separated parents are struggling with this there is support available. We have information on our website, specific to making arrangements during the lockdown.”
“And on the other side if one parent doesn’t understand the reasoning behind staying away...”
“Again, communication between them both is needed. We don’t underestimate how difficult this can be for people, at the best of times never mind when we’re really stressed and anxious. We know it can be really hard to talk to your ex-partner and for a lot of people they just don’t think it’s possible.
But we also know that people want to do what’s best for the kids and therefore will try to talk to their ex-partner. We want to reassure them that it doesn’t have to be so difficult, there is another way and family mediation can help them to resolve things.”
“During this period, we might find that one member of a family has to shield as they’re high risk OR a family may have to self-isolate how can this be approached amicably?”
“It is entirely up to the parents themselves to decide what they think is in their children’s best interests. There will be children that fall within a high-risk group or parents that do. This will of course change the way parents will want to approach the arrangements as everyone’s health is of course important.
But this doesn’t mean that arrangements can’t be made. For example, if a child must self-isolate with one parent they can still have lots of contact with the other parent through video-conferencing facilities like FaceTime, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger.
We’ve seen people are doing wonderful things with technology at the moment. Parents can play games and quizzes with their children. They can make and share videos with each other, play online games. And separated parents can support each other to do set these things up.”
“Of course, this isn’t just unsettling for the adults involved but also the children who might not understand why their routine has suddenly changed. What’s the best way to explain this to them?”
“I think it’s entirely dependent on the age and understanding of the child. My son is just a toddler so fortunately we haven’t had to explain anything about the virus to him, but we have had to come up with games to get him to wash his hands regularly, which he hates. There is a lot of support online about what to say to children during these times. And we’ve got links to some of these resources on our website.”
“Another area which could concern one parent is if the other is still working or perhaps not adhering to social distancing rules - how should a discussion around this be raised?”
“Just as I’ve said earlier, first with each other and if this isn’t possible or doesn’t help move things forward family mediation could help them discuss the issue and make a plan that everyone is comfortable with.”
“None of us know how long this is going to go on for and understandably tensions between families are going to increase aren’t they, especially if one parent isn’t seeing their children. What’s the best way to handle that?”
“Yes, as we’ve said everyone is struggling in lots of different ways at the moment. I think it is first helpful to look at as an individual how can I reduce my stress, so for some people that’s reducing the amount of news they’re watching, having a long bath or playing video games. Once we’ve been able to take some time to care for ourselves, we’re usually in a much better place to handle the challenges we’re facing and support each other through this.”
If you need more information about support available during the Coronavirus crisis please visit our website.
Or if you have any questions please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org