February 17, 2014 is Family Day. Celebrated throughout Canada and recognized as a statutory holiday in some provinces, the day is a celebration of family.
It is also a great time to remember that all families are not structured the same. Over 2.5 million children in Canada have families that live in two homes.
Sometimes, these children witness their parents in conflict- spending more than the cost of a college education to work out what are essentially scheduling problems. At the same time, our Canadian communities are not designed to accommodate children with two homes. For instance, it is difficult for children to live in two homes and obtain school bus or daycare services that meet the needs of both parents. Sometimes parents are able to compromise, but at a cost of lost time at work and extra expense.
Our communities are failing these children. Children with separated parents are at much greater, life-long risks for depression, teen pregnancy, smoking, dropping out of school, delinquency, criminality, self-harm, suicide and a bevy of other ills (including diabetes, heart disease, mental illness etc.). If a germ or virus caused so much harm with such frequency it would be a public health emergency.
Overall, the greatest insulating factors to these risks are maintaining relationships with both parents and integrating these children into community sports, music and youth groups. Children develop resilience and nurturing skills through exposure to team work and good role models.
On this weekend, ask your congregation to take into consideration the needs of children with two homes. How? A few easy acts of kindness for these children will make the difference whether they participate in soccer, piano lessons and youth groups, have their homes at odds, or are left out.
Some of the specific things you and your community of faith can do:
Join other communities of worship:
Let other communities know that your congregation is thinking about these children. https://familydaysermon.eventbrite.ca
Schedule children’s community activities (art, music, sports) at the same time each weekday
Children with two homes need activities with consistent scheduling. If an activity is on the same day each weekday and the parents are on the common Fair Parenting Plan, the children can attend every session, coaches and teachers know what is going on, and everyone participates without scheduling conflicts.
Schedule weekend activities as independent events
Most parenting plans alternate weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sundays). Family life is busy, a child’s homes have different step and half siblings, step parents and different needs and resources. Scheduling weekend activities that are stand-alone events lets children participate without missing out on continuity and camaraderie.
Provide split receipts for separated parents
Soccer coaches, music teachers, daycares, dentists and other children’s service providers should make an effort to divide receipts for parents that are sharing expenses. Unfortunately most billing software does not allow this, so it may take a moment to do by hand. This will save children witnessing their parents hassling and fussing with each other every tax season.
Support Member of Parliament Maurice Vellacott's Bill C-560
This bill will amend the Divorce Act to reduce parental conflict and litigation over parenting plans. Please distribute the petition which may be returned to Mr. Vellacott’s office.
If you would like to explore these issues further or share your congregations experiences with integrating children with separated parents, please contact Eric Letts at firstname.lastname@example.org or 613 820 8230.