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Keeping in contact – we need to be creative

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All of us are needing to change and adapt to new ways of keeping in contact with family and friends. I can still hear my mother telling me that I "had to speak" to my grandmother on the telephone and then my huffing and puffing and reluctance to do it. It wasn't that I didn't want to speak to my Nana, or that I didn't have things I could share with her, it was simply that it didn't fit in with my plans and it was therefore just a bit boring. Now that I am a grandmother myself with a granddaughter hundreds of miles away those small snippets of conversation whether they last 20 minutes or 10 seconds are so precious.

Nowadays we have the ability to see each other when we are speaking - we can share moments of excitement and achievement; in our present circumstances families who live round the corner from each other are using technology to share and participate in family life. It won't be long before my granddaughter will be able to walk into a room and say "Alexa, get Nana on the screen so I can talk to her" and the next thing I will know is that there I will be doing whatever I might have been doing at the time broadcast straight into my daughter's home for all to see!

This is our future and based on the information that we are likely to hear in today's daily news briefing our social distancing lockdown could be for many months although every three weeks or so there may be a gradual relaxation in some areas as we try to establish a new way of operating our lives.

The situation is difficult for many families but none more so than separated families. The Guidance may provide an exemption for children of separated parents to move between two homes but this is not easy when the parental relationship is strained. Our children will have memories of this time in their lives, so what can you do to make the situation as easy as can be for everyone involved?

In my view the best you can do is try to be kind; be open to ideas and most of all be imaginative. I appreciate that this is a big ask particularly when you are in the midst of separation but there can be mutual benefits. After three weeks on your own it can be hard occupying children 100% of the day every day when you can't go out to do things, when they can't play with their friends and then there are the inevitable arguments over schoolwork - you are never going to do it or be able to help them like their teacher does! Letting the other parent take some of the heat and pressure of the present situation can help everyone involved. Even in families where for health reasons children cannot move between parents this does not mean that the parent at the end of the telephone/tablet/laptop cannot be involved - they might be able to help! Similarly both sets of grandparents could also be available to keep the children occupied and entertained. Perhaps one of you is good at arts and crafts, the other is good at sports and sciences - you can use and share the skills that you all have to parent and grandparent your children irrespective of the home that everyone is in. Doing experiments, reading stories, acting out plays, singing, dancing, building aeroplanes or brick towers can all be done as shared activities - you just need to try to give it a go. Your activities don't have to be shared online but your ideas could be. If something has worked for you and your family then it may also work for others. Let's begin a conversation that makes everyone feel good.

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.
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