Children need calm reassurance from the adults in their life if they are to thrive, especially when sharing parenting during the COVID-19 crisis, according to leading child protection expert Professor Daryl Higgins. Here, Professor Higgins offers tips for keeping children safe while sharing parenting during the pandemic.
Divorced or separated parents face new difficulties negotiating shared care of children across two households, with the pressures of working from home, lost income, or additional work pressures in essential occupations.
Professor Higgins, Director of the Institute of Child Protection Studies at the Australian Catholic University, and his team have developed two new resources offering tips on how to manage shared parenting during COVID-19.
They are aimed at child protection and family service workers as well as separated or divorced parents to support children through the crisis and help maintain a sense of physical safety and mental wellbeing.
“For children to thrive, they need calm reassurance from the adults around them,” Professor Higgins said.
“Helping every child have a safe harbour is always important, particularly where parents share caring responsibilities across two households due to separation or divorce. We have developed this resource to help navigate the choppy waters of co-parenting during the COVID-19 crisis.”
Talk – do not just type: Pick up the phone and talk to the other parent or try a video platform like Zoom, Skype or Facetime so you can pay attention to body language and facial expressions.
Acknowledge different views of risk: Many parents believe their way is the right way and fail to recognise alternatives. This is likely to be heightened in discussions around whether to send your kids to school/daycare during this time. Consider that the parent with whom you disagree can also have the best interests of the child at heart and will not intentionally place them at harm.
Create new routines: Many routines have changed and may need to change again. Discuss transitions between households and prepare your children for hand-over as best as you can. Even where routines are different across houses, having stable, predictable routines is reassuring for children.
Practice kindness: The best lesson you can teach your kids is to model with the other parent how you would want them to treat others – their siblings, their friends, and even their future life partner.
Be flexible: Recognise that variations within an overall broad theme are fine. If you believe in using soap over hand sanitiser but the other parent disagrees, can you agree to disagree? No matter which way or how we do it, both ways help keep our hands clean. When it comes to new rules around personal hygiene, talk about different ways of achieving the same goal – whether it is using sanitiser or using soap and water for 20 seconds and singing happy birthday, the outcome is clean hands before eating or preparing food.
Safeguarding children during COVID-19 resources are available here:
- Supporting shared parenting in the time of COVID-19 (Practitioner guide)
- Supporting shared parenting in the time of COVID-19 (Parent guide)