Parenting styles and priorities under covid for separated parents

There’s been a lot in the media these last few months about how different people have reacted to the pandemic, and different attitudes to risk. We have seen a number of separated parents come to us because of genuine differences in opinion about risk, and different concerns about health and welfare. This has been a big source of conflict and in some cases has meant contact arrangements between parents and children have broken down.

Many children and young people have been badly affected by covid and where possible keeping to a routine and making sure that they keep contact with people they love and care about is absolutely the right thing to do. But when people are concerned about their health, or other family members health, this can be difficult to manage – especially when people are stressed and dealing with changes to jobs, worries about money, and juggling childcare.

Lynda Lyons, one of the Mediators at Changing Futures Mediation, has this advice for parents in this situation:

Think carefully about any conflict experienced and who it really belongs to

Conflict should not be owned by the child, research has demonstrated that children and young people who experience parental conflict absorb the blame believing that they are the cause when it is often as adults and parents we find it more comfortable to project our conflict onto the other parent, rather than the uncomfortable feeling of recognising and accepting that it is our conflict and needs to be resolved in a beneficial way to support the child.

Identify the needs of your child and look at how you are going to be able to meet those needs together

It is important as parents to look at how you can support your child to cope with the situation of parental separation, offering reassurance that they are not losing either parent, you are both still there and active as parents, providing security and stability through maintaining routines and allowing your child to see that as parents you are coping with the changes in a way that doesn’t impact upon or affect the child in an emotionally negative way

Respect your child’s love for both parents

Inevitably with separation comes a wide range of emotions, such as a sense of loss, hurt, anger, upset, confusion, fear, rejection, uncertainty and all of these feelings are also being felt and internalised by your child who still loves both parents. As adults and parents we need to focus on our child an work together to support them in a way that allows the child to feel emotionally free and able to continue to have the relationship they need with both parents, without experiencing the pressure and constraints of adult or parental pressure and conflict upon them, as they want to be able to enjoy their time with both parents.

Avoid placing the responsibility of decision making onto the child

Children and young people are very attuned to parental conflict and very quickly recognise that they are not able to really talk about their feelings and thoughts openly with parents as it can often lead to conflict situations and blame which they are not equipped emotionally to deal with. They need to see their parents being able to work together and make decisions in a positive way.

Look at the situation through the eyes of your child

It is important to understand the way your child sees things. This is not usually in the complicated, conflict laden or sophisticated way that adults in conflict view things. Children and young people view things more at an emotional feeling level and it is therefore more important to remember that your child is reliant on you as the parent to demonstrate good values, and be that positive role model that demonstrates care, understanding and concern about the emotional and physical wellbeing of both the child and the other parent even when conflict is present in that parental relationship.

Sometimes, having a neutral person involved can help, so consider mediation to help you have your voice heard, understand you ex partners perspective and come up with arrangements that work for the children.