While the fear of coronavirus itself was enough for most households across the UK to agree without question to a lockdown, news sites have begun to report serious flouting of lockdown rules over the past weeks.
Some posit that people are suffering from a general lockdown exhaustion. Others believe that it is likely that tensions within households could also be forcing people outside more.
Speaking to the BBC, Professor Jacqui Gibb of the Open University stated that, before coronavirus, couples would spend an average of two and a half hours in each other’s company each day.
During the lockdown, families are spending up to 15 or 16 hours of each day together. Add to that the presence of children who would normally be at school, homes can start to feel crowded.
An analogy might be the festive season. Everyone knows that Christmas and family holidays can be a tense time as families are forced together for hours on end. With the pandemic, there is no end date – no light at the end of the tunnel – this is bound to create additional stress.
Not only this, but coronavirus introduces further pain points in addition to the concerns about one’s own health and the health of loved ones, for example, financial worries due to jobs lost or with an uncertain future, a lack of childcare, and the disappearance from life of normal interactions with friends and far-off family members.
The situation in hundreds of thousands of UK households is likely to be incendiary right now.
In fact, figures recently released by the National Domestic Abuse helpline show a 25% increase in calls for help since the beginning of the lockdown, showing that a worrying trend is developing.
Whilst families with one or more adults struggle with lack of personal space, single parent families are among the hardest hit by the lockdown.
Single parents, of which there are more than two million in the UK, have a number of extra worries during normal times, and all of these issues are magnified during a crisis.
90% of single parents are women and, while the majority are in work, a large number of these are in lower-paid roles or on zero-hour contracts. With the uncertainty of job status for most people in the UK right now, single parents are faced with the possibility that they won’t be able to afford their bills if they lose their jobs.
Single parents are also facing the crisis alone with shelter-in-place rules meaning that they cannot share childcare with others or have face-to-face social contact with other adults.
How Are Child Contact Arrangements Affected?
One of the other things that single parents have to consider is how to work child contact arrangements during this crisis if their ex-partner is still involved with the children.
The government guidance currently states that children are allowed to continue to travel between separated parents. Whether they actually do or not is up to the parents to decide as this does increase the risk for both children and the households that they are moved between. Parents can make the decision between them whether they are going to continue visitations, and how often they want to do so.
Face to face contact must be stopped if someone in one household or the other falls into the extremely vulnerable category or if someone in either household develops symptoms.
Otherwise, changes can be agreed between parents and children unless there is a court order in place. A court order can be varied by agreement, set out in writing, and agreed by both parties.You should set out a date to review the agreement and prepare yourself to set new dates going forward up until the lockdown ends.
Some of the changes parents can put into place to protect their children and respective households during the coronavirus crisis include:
- Switching from public transport to driving if one parent is able to
- Making visitations longer and less frequent so that there is as little time spent out of the house as possible
- Mixing face to face contact with online contact so that it is just as frequent but with less moving between households
Approaches For Families In Lockdown
If you are locking down as a family, either as a single parent or with two or more adults in the home, it is key that you get the whole household on board to protect your environment and keep everyone happy.
Create A ‘Family Contract’
Sit down with the entire family and work together on a family contract that gives everyone a role during quarantine, helps to set out expectations and concerns, and discusses what you can all do to maintain a happy home.
Having the whole family work on this makes everyone feel involved and it helps to ensure that a lockdown arrangement is arrived at which everyone is happy with.
Set Up A Daily Structure
Routine is an important part of day to day life outside of quarantine, and so it should also be part of life inside it. Make sure that there are set getting up and going to bedtimes and that everyone has activities to do each day.
Keeping fit and healthy is not only good for your physical health but it promotes much better mental health as well. Try online exercise classes, playing sports and games in the garden or even fun activities like a little obstacle course you can all compete in.
Give Each Other Space
Being in the same house all day every day can lead you to feel irritated by the people that you live with. This is why it is so important to get some alone time each throughout the day. Make sure that everyone respects each other’s alone time, and has activities that they can do independently of each other.
Vyman helps clients with various aspects of family law including assistance on arranging new visitation rules throughout quarantine and beyond.
Call 0208 427 9080 or email [email protected] to find out more about our family law services.