Families across the UK are struggling with the many unforeseen challenges of co-parenting in the COVID-19 pandemic according to DAD.info, Europe’s largest advice and support website for fathers.
In recent days the DAD.info forum (which has almost 40,000 users), has seen a surge in posts relating to disputes over childcare arrangements, postponements of family court hearings and financial pressures, all as a consequence of COVID-19. Isolation is also taking its toll on families whose regular arrangements have been disrupted and parents are worried about the impact of the closure of schools on their children’s mental health and well-being.
In response, the charity Fegans, which owns and runs DAD.info, has diverted several of its parent support workers to bolster the team of moderators working on the DAD.info forum.
They are available online to answer questions from both mums and dads during this time, offering advice on parenting issues such as daily routines, behaviour management, coping with stress and self-care. Several volunteers from Restored Lives, a charity which runs courses for people to help them recover from relationship breakdowns, have also now stepped forward to offer emotional support to users of the forum and will be sharing their expertise in the coming days.
DAD.info CEO Ian Soars offers some reassurance to parents who are unable to see their children because they or their children are self-isolating or in quarantine. ‘Kids are looking for your intent. Yes, you might not be able to physically see your kids right now but you can work to show them through video calls, letters, pictures any form of communication that your heart is still all theirs. You should find every method available to you to say that you are there for them and then they will remember that.’
Wells Family Mediation have also been offering advice on DAD.info. Family mediator Jane Kerr says that communicating effectively as co-parents is more crucial than ever in these uncertain times: ‘This will be a challenging time for many families and, more than ever, parents are to be encouraged to lay aside differences and work together to support each other. In the hurly-burly of news reports and changing landscapes, we must be mindful of the strain that this is for many around us, including our children of course and their other parent.’
With the family courts in crisis, the expectation upon parents to manage arrangements themselves without looking to court is greater than ever. Family separation raises many issues and, unless there are safety concerns, the encouragement is not to see disputes as legal issues so much as parenting problems which need to be resolved together.
The President of the Family Division (who heads up the family justice system) issued a statement last week, in which he stated: ‘The best way to deal with these difficult times will be for parents to communicate with one another about their worries, and what they think would be a good, practical solution.’
He also provided overall guidance about child arrangements for separated parents. The full statement has been published on DAD.info.
Free to join, the DAD.info forum offers peer support and is moderated by people with lived experience of separation and divorce. Having navigated the process of separation themselves, moderators can provide a very practical source of information, as well as a much-needed listening ear for those who can feel very isolated.
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