Lockdown and children moving between homes
For many of my clients the current “lockdown” has had immediate implications for arrangements for contact with their children. After, often, months of painstaking negotiations and compromise, carefully planned contact arrangements have had to be rethought. My colleague, Rachael Kelsey wrote here about the situation where there are Court orders in place and the Guidance from the Lord President, but I wanted to reflect on situations where arrangements have been agreed outwith the court process.
It is all too easy to suspect the other parent of deliberately engineering a situation where a child is self-isolating for fourteen days to prevent contact going ahead. It is all too easy to suspect the other parent of taking advantage of the fact that a member of your household has an underlying condition which means contact cannot take place in your home. It is all too easy to suspect the other parent of using the fact that a member of your household is a key worker who is continuing to work in the community, to deliberately prevent contact.
However, I have been so impressed by the sensible attitude adopted by so many of my clients in these difficult times. It shows them to be really responsible parents who, despite huge personal disappointment, are able to prioritise the safety of their children and of others too.
Rather than engage in unhelpful accusations and disputes - which cause grief to the children caught in the crossfire and long term damage to ongoing arrangements – they have focused on positive ways of staying in touch and being involved through the imaginative use of technology.
These are already very strange and scary times for children. Many children will be missing their normal routines. Many will have been looking forward to spending time with their other parent. Exciting Easter holiday plans may have had to be completely cancelled. Disappointed children may take out their resentment on the parent they are staying with. The last thing anyone needs is to make a difficult situation worse.
The more that separated parents can agree alternative but safe arrangements for direct contact or, where direct contact is not possible, alternative indirect contact arrangements , the better. Of course for this to work it takes both parents to be prepared to cooperate. This will mean sharing information and being prepared to alter routines to perhaps incorporate more regular telephone or video calls.
So, to all the parents who are managing to come up with alternative arrangements to stay in touch and be actively involved in school work, projects and games through the imaginative use of technology such as Skype, video calls , facetime , be generous with your ideas –it is good to share. For those who are struggling, do not be afraid to ask for suggestions.