Managing Anxieties Over Child Contact During the Coronavirus Outbreak
Kathrine holds a PhD in social psychology and has a Master's in counselling psychology. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. Kathrine has a license as a Marriage Family Therapist from the United States and has many years of experience working within a counselling setting as a therapist and with individuals/couples of all ages and backgrounds. For more information about Kathrine: http://kathrinebejanyan.com/
Managing anxieties over child contact – a counsellor’s perspective
When I was asked to write an article for OTS Solicitors on managing anxieties over child contact during the coronavirus outbreak my first thought was that no one is really qualified to advise on how to cope during a global pandemic, the likes of which none of us have even seen or had to experience. Who would have thought that a few weeks ago that London would be in lockdown with only essential travel allowed?
When I gathered my thoughts I decided it was best to first address trust issues. I know it can be hard to open up about your anxieties to someone that you haven’t met and to let them help you with your relationship anxieties, or in this situation, with managing your worries over child contact and the Covid 19 outbreak. However, it is my experience, and that of the children and family law team at OTS Solicitors that you can build a relationship of trust through Skype or telephone counselling consultations or online legal advice.
You are not on your own
My first piece of advice to those of you who are sitting at home worrying about coronavirus and how you will manage child contact during the outbreak is that you are not alone. There is lots of help and advice available at the end of a phone or online.
Why are you anxious?
Asking ‘’why are you anxious’’ may seem a particularly stupid question to ask in the face of a global pandemic with twenty four hour news coverage on Covid 19 and fatality figures but it is a good question to ask. That is because if you don’t break down your anxieties and fears they are harder to manage.
It may be that your child contact fears are because:
Your child is asthmatic or has another underlying health condition
Your child might have to stay away for up to fourteen days if he or she falls ill whilst staying with your ex-partner and his or her family
You are worried about use of public transport when your child goes on a contact visit
You are concerned that hygiene standards or safe distancing practices won't be followed as rigorously as you when your child stays with your ex-partner
You fear that if more stringent lockdown measures are introduced by the government that your child won't be able to return home to you at the end of a scheduled contact visit
You don’t want to be on your own in your house whilst your child is visiting their other parent as you feel isolated because you can't go out to work or meet up with friends or do any of the usual things to distract yourself whilst your son or daughter is staying with their other parent.
All those worries, taken together can seem overwhelming but broken down you may feel better able to cope with them. Looking at your anxieties individually there may be practical solutions, such as:
Agreeing that you or your ex-partner will drive your child to contact and back, rather than any of you risk using public transport. Whilst you may have been the subject of arguments in the past over who is responsible for transportation, now may be the time to compromise
Although you can't go out to see friends and family whilst your child is seeing their other parent there is an online community out there and loads of things to do from signing up to learn a new language , exercising through a Pilates online course or just Skyping your friends and family.
Not all of your anxieties over child contact will necessarily be managed by either acknowledging them or sorting out practical solutions but communication with your ex-partner will help as well.
Talking about your anxieties
Talking about your anxieties certainly helps. Many parents just are not able to speak to their ex-partner direct and don’t want to offload their child contact worries and fears on elderly parents or friends who may have their own financial or other coronavirus related worries.
That is where a counsellor can help. A counsellor can work with you as an individual or with you and your ex-partner. The important thing is that the counselling is bespoke to you and helps address your child contact anxieties and the reasons for them. For example, we may work out that your anxieties are projecting on contact time but the reality is that you are desperately worried about your child’s safety, whether they are with you or not. That is understandable as it is hard to accept that there is an invisible and silent enemy outside your front door.
Counselling can help you cope with what are massive changes to most parents and to children’s lives. A counsellor will work with you by holding an initial consultation to find out about your particular circumstances and how to best help you and to then devise a plan on how to implement this support, whether that is with you as an individual or through Skype and joint video conferencing sessions with you and your ex-partner.
By the end of your sessions you should have strategies in place to help manage your child contact anxieties. If you have engaged in joint counselling sessions with your ex-partner, you should also have a better understanding of their own anxieties and worries over child contact and hopefully start a journey together of better communication and co-parenting through a mutual understanding of the importance of talking and sharing of your anxieties.