Supporting your Child: when access needs to change due to COVID-19
In the era of social distancing and COVID-19 many families are finding that agreed family patterns need to change. This change can lead to stress for all members of the family particularly children. We have put together some advice to support your child during this period.
- Allow your child to be part of the necessary family changes at this time. This will create a much more positive and inclusive outcome.
- Talk with your child (at a level that is appropriate to their age) about what is happening in the community. Guidance from the Dept of Education is available here.
- Help them understand why their parents must take steps that will change how the family normally operates while this situation is ongoing.
- Ask children what they think could work and include them in making the plans if they are to live with only one parent during COVID-19.
Talking with children and helping them feel they are part of creating the plan will increase confidence and start to build resilience. Children need to know and believe that this time will pass, and families will get through it. Talk about a time when something difficult happened in your family before. Help your child recall how it may have been hard at the time but that eventually life became good again.
Talk with children about how the family is going to cope during this time, for example parents working from home; schools closing and sending the work online and then talk about how you all will cope. Let children see it is not just your family but all of society that is impacted.
Let your child see it is part of a plan and not a decision against the other parent if access arrangements need to be changed. Ideally if both parents can present the new plan to the children before engaging in it, it would help children see a united front. Children from separated families might otherwise think Mum and Dad are fighting again.
Parents who need mediated support at this time to agree new arrangements can contact The Family Mediation Service in the Legal Aid Board as they are offering free telephone mediation and conflict coaching on this issue for parents. More details about this service can be found at www.legalaidboard.ie.
Support your child by decreasing the amount of mass media they see. Children cannot understand all they hear and see and maybe overwhelmed by images and news stories.
Children can and will become fearful that a parent might be in danger or will die. Talking with them about all the measures the family is taking to cope, following the HSE guidelines will help them see they are playing a part. Talk with them about the future and how they will be cared for if their parent was to become ill.
Support your child to know the other parent is safe. Establish what works best with online resources or the phone. Children often do not do well with online engagement. Parents may need to support a routine of engaging with Zoom or other online platforms so the parent who is distant from the child can interact, read stories to them, dance and sing etc.
Remember by supporting the parent-child relationships, you are supporting your child to do well and decrease the likelihood of poor longer-term emotional implications from COVID-19.
Expect however, that your child’s behaviour may change. Preschool children may become clingier and have bed wetting or other behavioural changes. Older children may have issues concentrating and display more emotional issues, coming through in different or more negative behaviours. Temper tantrums may very well return for a while. Teens can have intense emotional responses to times such as the one we are experiencing.
Making time to talk about what is happening, how each of the family are feeling, building on coping mechanisms and supporting your child to build resilience will support all of you to get through this time together.