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Entering 2021: The year of no return. Thinking of children.

There is no return to offices in the traditional sense because working from home has become the known approach in the last 9 months to the extent that it has been reported some international law firms are dispensing with “trophy offices” to accommodate the move to remote working.

There is no return to the gym or to clubs as part of the New Year fitness resolution/revolution unless you’ve signed up to Zoom sessions.;

Now there is also no return to school as of the First Minister’s announcement on Monday 4 January

Immediately, newsworthy concern was for homeschooling which has come to be recognised as remote learning provided by teachers who now face restructure of lessons prepared for this term supported by parents in delivering those against the January snow providing children with its distraction! 

How were parents once more going to balance working from home and attending to children’s educational needs?

Again, concern was raised for how much of children’s education had already been disrupted from March 2020. 

For some children however, school is not all about lessons and for me, from my experience as a child welfare reporter, my thoughts turned to those children for whom school is a community where they can feel comfortable and free.

It is an environment where they are removed from parental stress and arguments or the adult decisions imposed upon them. 

Many may have been exposed to heightened tension over the Christmas holidays as families tried to manage shared care and contact arrangements amidst restrictions. 

For those for whom the excitement of the build-up to Christmas was not met in reality, they have been unable to return to the place where a vigilant eye will recognise the impact of that and manage them back to a routine where this particular disappointment can be put into the past. 

A teacher can be the person to whom a child can express how they really feel about a parent’s new partner, how challenging they find it when their parents cannot look at or talk to one another at the end of a contact visit which they have really enjoyed or who will understand that while they love their grandparents very much, they would still prefer to spend time with their other parent when the one with whom they have their principal home is working.

Children don’t always understand the reasons for parental decisions, especially if those decisions are not or cannot be explained to them by the carer in whom they place their trust. Children might have their own ideas and made their own assumptions. A teacher can be the best listening and non-judging ear for what a child is trying to process in their thoughts. That opportunity is delayed for just now.

It appears to be widely accepted that separation is difficult for both the adults and children involved but that separation is life-changing for children at so many levels may not be what they are able to express to the parents whom they love.  They do not wish to hurt or anger them any further than they have already experienced in arguments they have witnessed or because of what has been said consciously or unconsciously to them about their parent’s feelings.

It gives some pause for thought in reflecting upon what all the ramifications are of not being able to return to school.....just yet.

Consultant, Family Law

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