The most important thing for children during this time is that their lives can be as stable as is possible.
Life is what you make it!
We can all agree that these are exceptional times we are living in. They will go down in history and be etched into the memories of our children forever. So use this opportunity to practice extreme gratitude and see what kind of positive impact it will have on you and your little ones! It’s impossible to be miserable and grateful at the same time, and while many of our grandparents and great-grandparents were called to go to war, all most of us are being called to do is stay at home and keep ourselves entertained.
This is incredibly easy to do with the access to information and connection we are able to enjoy from the comfort of our homes, that people even 50 years ago could have never dreamed of – so let’s keep things in perspective. This is a time to be present and relax and spend quality time with your children. Make this the best time of your lives by remembering how much we have to be grateful for!
A hostile or friendly world?
Einstein said, “The single most important decision you will ever make is whether to believe you live in a hostile or friendly universe.” During these times of crisis when the world is filled with fear and greed and hate, the decisions we make, how we behave and the words we chose could impact the course of our children’s lives and especially affect their emotional and psychological well being. A child’s relationship with itself, with others, and with the way they view people and the world even when they are adults can be strongly influenced during life turbulence. Hence, it’s important to instill values in your children that will help them to feel secure and safe. An easy way to know if the words you speak are instilling confidence or fear in your child is to measure them against the standard of the Golden Rule:
Puhumme aina totta ja ystävällisesti sekä käyttäydymme kunnioittavasti toisiamme.
Resources for parents
Huoltajan selviytymisopas koronaviruskaranteeniin ja kotiopetukseen
Huomioi nämä, kun puhut lapselle koronaviruksesta
There is a high risk of alienation during a pandemic which is extremely dangerous for a child’s long-term mental health, and is usually done by a parent with a mental disorder, more information here
Finland’s official COVID19 information page
Co-parenting during corona
The health of a nation can be measured by the state of its children. In the same way, the true character of a person comes to the fore in times of challenge and change.
Lasten Oikeudet’s most important advice to parents is: “Stay sane and be the ‘grown-ups in the room’!” This is the time to provide our children with as much stability as we possibly can.
Children look to parents as their main role models in life and will learn one of two things from you: That they want to be like mom and/or dad when they grow up OR that they never want to be like mom and/or dad. What will your children think in the future, about your actions today? Who are you being and what can your children see and observe?
Many co-parents (and children) are wondering what all of this means for them in practice. As parents know from the summer holidays, one month (and potentially longer!) without regular school and routines is a long time. Here are some important points:
Health is No.1:
The World Health Organization advises to DO THE FIVE: Help stop coronavirus
1 HANDS Wash them often
2 ELBOW Cough into it
3 FACE Don’t touch it
4 FEET Stay more than 3ft apart
5 FEEL sick? Stay home
‘A fence at the top of the hill is better than a clinic at the bottom.’
No one really knows how the virus works and new information is coming out all the time, so the information below only concerns general guidelines regarding children’s rights and co-parenting. For all medical advice and matters, you must continue to strictly follow the latest information from the State and your municipality which can be found on their own websites.
The health and safety of parents and children obviously trumps every other right. There is believed to be a high risk of children carrying the virus without showing any symptoms so practice utmost caution when moving a child between homes especially where there is a risk group in one home.
One way to minimize spread of anything is that when the child arrives at the other home, without touching or hugging anyone, send them straight to the shower and wash their hair and change their clothes, putting them straight into the washing machine or a closed bag. If children are small, parents who have carried them could do the same.
In general, good hygiene means that when kids come into the house from anywhere, they should always wash their hands before touching things or eating.
Protecting a child’s right to both parents during exceptional times:
The whole country is under lockdown and the majority of people should be self-quarantined. This does not under any circumstances mean that law and order should not be observed.
All verbal agreements, written agreements, court agreements and orders regarding children should still be kept during the time of the pandemic to ensure the child’s rights and safety.
If adjustments need to be made to agreements due to pandemic and other resultant emergencies, they should be done with the consent of both parents and in line with the valid contracts in writing, so that there is no room for misunderstandings or confusion which is harmful to children.
- Unless a child or member of the home is part of the risk group (see below), custody agreements should continue to be followed and children should move between homes as they always do.
- As always, if the child or anyone else in the household is ill and the child should move to another home according to contract, the receiving parent should be informed immediately so they can make arrangements for care and/or decide together with the co-parent if it’s better for the child to stay put.
- In the case that parents agree that a sick child or child from a sick household should stay put, and this decision causes the child to miss out on time they would normally spend with the other parent, an agreement on compensating the time at the earliest available opportunity should be made at the same time in writing so there is no confusion and the child’s life can stay stable.
- Once an agreement is reached, this change in the routine should be informed to the child so they know what to expect. If no agreement is reached, no changes should be made so this is not a time to hold on to ego and differences but to think only of the health and safety of children and family members.
- Children should never be part of any conflict or decision-making process that involves a conflict between parents, including changes to a contract during the pandemic. A lack of boundaries and instability will cause them to feel insecure and violates the child’s rights to mental health and safety.
A social worker specializing in conflict resolution in co-parenting recommended the following to parents who had no real risk in moving a child during the pandemic, which is good advice to us all: “Sillä aikaa suosittelen, että te vanhemmat pidätte tiukasti kiinni lapsen asumisesta ja vaihdoista tekemästänne sopimuksesta. Sopimuksesta kiinni pitäminen tuo lapsen elämään turvallisuutta lisäämällä arjen ennakoitavuutta.”
Moving a child between homes where people belong to risk groups:
- Health is still No.1! Co-parents should inform the other parent immediately if they or anyone else in the household is part of the “at-risk” group. The medical definition of at-risk groups can be found here. “Feeling” you are at risk, does not make you at risk and is not a legal or valid reason for changes to custody agreements.
- If there is a lack of trust and dishonesty in the co-parenting relationship, parents can ask for evidence of the risk, for example, a copy of any special quarantine instructions (saying you have such is not enough, the other parent has a right to see if it is the cause for a custody agreement needing temporary changes). Any form of ID shows age-risk, magistrate extracts available with bank-verification online show who lives somewhere, Oma-Kanta records can be screenshot to show just the excerpt of the risk disease without disclosing other unnecessary personal information.
- In general, if a co-parent has a life and death illness, this is something they should anyways disclose to the other parent as it is critical to the child in case of emergency, (even in times when there is no pandemic).
- In these exceptional circumstances where there is a risk group in one of the homes, discuss with your co-parent how to protect the risk group. For example, keeping the child in one place for a 2-week quarantine before sending to the at-risk home, or quarantining the other home for 2 weeks before sending the child to the at-risk home.
- If changes must be made, include a plan in writing to immediately replace the lost time with the other parent as soon as the pandemic is over or the quarantine situation allows for it. Both parents should be on the side of the child and protecting the at-risk family member so that everything works smoothly for the child.
- If you are having a hard time choosing to do the right thing for the person at risk, remember that this person is someone your child loves and hurting them is hurting your child. If nothing else, do it for your child or they may someday hate you when they find out the truth or in the worst-case scenario if someone they loved died because of your bad choices, or especially because there will never be any way to prove who the person at risk got the virus from. This is your chance to show your true character!
- If you are a household where you have been traveling or possibly exposed to the virus and sending your child to another household could cause the co-parent or other at-risk members of your child’s family to be in danger, be proactive in offering suggestions and solutions and your willingness to be flexible and accommodate this serious matter. This is in your child’s best interest and will go a long way in helping to build a good co-parenting relationship when both parents are thinking of the best of the other.
- Parents at risk, be gracious and grateful for the sacrifices your co-parent is making for you and also the difficulty of your child’s life and routines being disturbed. Show your gratitude by saying thank you and by communicating with respect. Speaking highly of the co-parent to your child and easily agreeing to a solution to compensate the time both child and parent will miss because of the needed change to the regular schedules will go a long ways in building a healthy co-parenting relationship.
Preventing misuse of the pandemic to forbid movement between homes.
- It may seem obvious to most people, but for those who it is not, burdening emergency services and child protection to prank and report co-parents and exes without a valid emergency (ex. calling 112 if a parent comes to pick up a child in accordance with an agreement but the other parent has decided to self-quarantine, etc.,), is not only illegal but also a terrible thing to do when emergency services are already struggling and short-staffed. Not to mention, that it shows a lack of integrity and a terrible example to your children.
- Both parents have the right to access their child’s medical information which will always be recorded in the child’s Oma Kanta. If there is no medical information or tailor-made quarantine instructions regarding the child in this system, that means it does not exist.
- IMPORTANT: If you receive any calls from blocked or unblocked numbers claiming to be the police or other authority making ”emergency decisions to override your custody agreements in light of the pandemic”: Stay calm. Talk respectfully (they are people too and just doing their jobs). On 19.3.2020 Espoo Police advised that police are not enforcing any changes to custody agreements. If you get these kinds of instructions, you do not need to follow them. 112 connects calls to whatever patrol is on duty and a decision is made by the officer on duty at the station. The police apparently do not keep any records for this and you also have no right to have this information of contact between 112 and the police or any ”emergency decisions” they may make for not picking up your children. If you are not allowed to have the information, it also means you do not have to follow it. Ask the name of the officer making the decision and also the station they are at, in case you need this information later. Use an app like TapeACall the moment you get such a call so that you can record the conversation. It’s totally fine to put the officer on hold while you merge the call with the TapeACall number for recording. This is your child’s life and rights we are talking about and a hasty decision made could mean you don’t see your kids for months or years! Believe us, it happens all the time.
The secret to having a healthy relationship
with an unhealthy person,
is to always respond to
their lack of
health in a sane and healthy way.
Tips for communication during a pandemic:
Are you responding to the situation with confidence, calm and grace? Are you keeping things stable and keeping your agreements and routines as much as is possible? If agreements must be changed due to emergencies, are you putting the best interests of your children and the greater good above your own ego and wounds of the past? That’s what good healthy human beings and good co-parents do.
It is critical for us as parents to be resilient by rising to the challenges and changes as they present themselves, staying focused on the future — whether we feel like it or not. We must unite together for the sake of our own survival, and especially proverbially “come together” in intention and purpose for the sake of our children.
All communication should be done in a respectful manner. If you are not sure if your message is respectful, ask a neutral 3rd party if there is something you could say in a more respectful, logical and unemotional way that would bring about the best results for your children. If this idea sounds bad to you, there’s a likely chance that something in your communication style has room for improvement.
Remember that we cannot control what is going on or anyone else, the only thing we can control is ourselves, our own words and actions.