Promoting contact when you cannot see your child
The recent outbreak of Covid-19 has caused an issue for many separated parents. However, there are several reasons why a parent might not be able to see their child for an extended period of time, such as living overseas or time away with work.
It is important to try and have the best possible contact with the child in the interim, so that the child continues to feel connected to the absent parent, to try to avoid feelings of rejection for the child and to avoid issues in the future when seeking to resume contact.
There are a number of ways that contact might be promoted in the meantime. Whilst this has been prepared with the current situation regarding Covid-19 in mind, this could apply to other situations where appropriate:
- It may be possible to have some contact complying with the guidance on social distancing. Depending on the age of the child, you could go for a walk in the local area with them or undertake an outdoor activity with them so far as the guidelines permit.
- Depending upon the relationship between parents, it may be possible to have some direct communication on the doorstep of the property where the child is staying.
- Great use has been made recently of video conferencing facilities to have virtual contact such as Zoom or facetime. Not all children react well to video or telephone contact and some do not engage with it (particularly younger children) at all. You should not feel disheartened if calls are cut short.
- It may be possible to have email contact with children that are able to write and, if both parents are in agreement and encouraging of this, their own email address could be set up where they can receive mail.
- Children usually like to receive post and therefore cards and letters might be popular. On some websites, it is possible to personalise these cards with photographs which the child might enjoy.
- If the child has their own mobile telephone, regular text messages or whatsapp messages could be sent.
- It may be possible to leave small thoughtful gifts for the child such as craft sets, smaller outdoor toys, food treats or magazines that they like.
- It might be possible to play on-line games with the child. Again this should be done with the consent of the other parent, at appropriate times and not for too long or to the detriment of any school work.
- It could be possible to set up a time when you could read a story to the child or complete a certain aspect of school work with them (for instance, spelling or times tables).
- It could be arranged that you and the child watch a favourite film, past sporting event or TV show at the same time to reinforce the connection between you both that you could then talk about afterwards or at the same time.
With any of the above methods, it is important to consider the best interests of the child. What works for one child, may not work for another and their specific needs, likes, age etc must be taken into account.