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    Travelling abroad when your kids have a different surname

    It’s peak holiday season for UK families as the schools get ready to close for the six-week break. Travelling with kids can be tricky at the best of times but travelling abroad when your kids have a different surname can be complicated.
    Emma Newman, the Managing Partner at the Stowe Family Law office in Esher shares her first-hand experience and explains what a parent can do in advance to help prevent any issues.
    Many of us are now looking forward to enjoying some time away in the sunshine as the summer holiday approaches but if you have a different surname to that of your child you need to take action to avoid unnecessary stress.
    What is in a surname?
    Women are more likely to have a different surname to their children; some, like me, may be divorced from their child’s father and have remarried taking on a new name, others are married but have chosen not to take their husband’s surname whilst their children do, and of course, there are more and more unmarried couples who have children.
    The checks that are in place at ports, airports and international railway stations are designed to prevent children from being kidnapped and are all very understandable, but they have caused a huge amount of stress, upset and even missed flights for many parents and their children. This can easily be avoided by ensuring you carry the right documents. So, what can you do to ensure your holiday goes smoothly?
    Documents you may need
    Much depends on your particular circumstances but the officials need to be satisfied with your relationship with your child so the documents you may need are:
    Your child’s Birth Certificate:
    This document gives the name of your child, their date and place of birth and will match with the details on their passport. It will also give the full names of both parents at the time of their birth. So be careful; if your name has changed since your child was born you will need to take more documents with you.
    Proof of your change of name:
    This could mean travelling with your Marriage Certificate or a Change of Name Deed. On my last trip abroad I also found carrying an expired passport in the name I held at the time of my child’s birth (and therefore as set out in his birth certificate) was very useful as not only did it show what my name was then but it also had a photograph of me and the Border Official was able to marry up the Birth Certificate, Marriage Certificate and the expired and current passports.
    Prepare your children
    You might also want to warn your children that they may be asked questions directly by the immigration officials and they should not be worried and answer clearly and honestly. This is not the time for them to make jokes.  When I have been stopped at immigration my son was asked who I was, who my husband was, where he had been and how old he was.  It was made very clear that he needed to answer himself and I couldn’t answer for him.
    Consent to travel
    If you are not travelling with your child’s other parent, I would always ensure that you can prove you have their consent to your taking the child abroad.
    If there is a Child Arrangement Order in place which states that the child lives with you, technically you only need to obtain the other parent’s consent if you are going to be out of the UK for more than 28 days.
    However, in every other case, you should have the permission of every other person with parental responsibility for the child. If you don’t have this consent or a Court order, you are committing child abduction.
    I always recommend asking the other parent to sign a consent form before travel or to write a letter setting out their consent. The document should provide the full contact details of the other parent and specific details of the trip including the dates, destination and address. The other parent should sign the form. It is also a wise idea to attach a copy of the other parents’ passport to the consent form.
    Travelling abroad with children can be stressful enough. However, you can minimise some of the costs by ensuring you have enough space in your luggage to pack these multitude of documents. Happy holidays! More

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    Stowe talks: How to successfully co-parent

    Join family lawyer Sarah Barr-Young and our special guest Tom Nash, aka Mr Divorce Coach and internationally certified Life, Divorce & Business Coach, as he shares his advice on how to navigate and become a successful co-parent following a divorce or separation.In this free hour-long webinar, Tom will share practical tips and techniques to help you improve how you and our partner co-parent, including:
    Book now
    About the speakers 
    Tom Nash, otherwise known as Mr Divorce Coach, is an internationally certified Life & Business Coach, specialising in Divorce, Separation & Family Coaching. Accredited by the Association for Coaching, he also holds Master Practitioner certifications in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Timeline Therapy, Hypnotherapy & more.
    Partnering closely with family law professionals, he offers an alternative support resource for individuals, couples and their families, assisting in multiple disciplines that include but are not limited to:

    Understanding, Managing & Overcoming Negative Emotions (anger, sadness, fear, guilt, shame, etc.).
    Increasing Confidence & Self-Esteem
    Fostering Improved Communications Strategies
    Positive Mindset & Emotional Wellbeing Techniques
    1:1 Coaching
    Couples & Uncoupling Coaching
    Co-Parenting & Blended Family Coaching

    On a personal front, Tom has experienced divorce, co-parenting and the related ups and downs from a young age. First, during his parents’ acrimonious divorce at the age of 3 years old, and later in life as husband and father of his own marital breakdown. He is a successful co-parent, step-father and blended family specialist.
    Sarah Barr-Young is the Managing Partner of our Ilkley and Leeds offices and has far-reaching family law experience. She is widely regarded for her expertise in complex cases involving allegations of domestic abuse and safeguarding issues. She is frequently chosen for her empathy and unrivalled approachability, and as such, a large majority of her clients choose her due to personal recommendations. More

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    The pitfalls of platonic co-parenting

    Platonic co-parenting
    Strangers making babies, an intriguing new show, recently started on Channel 4, shining a spotlight on the concept of platonic co-parenting. 
    With apparently 70,000 people in the UK currently advertising online to be co-parents (some simply on a Facebook group), the show follows a group of single, would-be parents looking for a platonic partner to have a baby.
    Unlike surrogacy, which has soared in popularity in the last few years, partly thanks to celebrities such as Elton John and Kim Kardashian West, platonic co-parenting remains little understood and less spoken about. 
    However, what it does share with surrogacy is a complexity in the law and the potentially complicated process of both parties become legal parents. 
    What is co-parenting? 
    Co-parenting is defined as parents raising a child or children together who are not or have not been in a romantic relationship.
    People choose to co-parent for various reasons, and co-parenting can work for individuals and couples. 
    For example, a gay couple may choose to co-parent with a lesbian couple, or two heterosexual friends may choose to co-parent. 
    Things to think about when considering co-parenting 
    Before embarking on co-parenting, it is important to consider who you want to co-parent with and how your relationship as parents will work. 
    You also need to be clear about your expectations, shared values and approaches to parenting, and practical considerations. 
    One of the most important considerations is how the baby will be conceived and carried, and you need to think about, 

    Undertaking health and fertility checks 
    The method of conception, for example,  will you use a home insemination method or a fertility clinic for artificial insemination or IVF
    Who will be recognised as the child’s legal parent and have parental responsibility for the child

    A co-parenting agreement 
    Once you’ve decided to go ahead and start your family, you may wish to enter into a pre-conception or co-parenting agreement which a lawyer and/or a mediator can assist with. 
    This agreement is designed to record your intentions as co-parents and create a framework outlining both parties expectations and can include: 

    Who will attend antenatal appointments and the birth 
    Choosing the child’s name 
    How you explain to the child their life story
    Your views on health, for example, opinions on vaccinations
    Your approach and views on education, including how you wish to choose a school, private fees and involvement with the school concerning parents evening, school reports and attendance at events
    Agreements around childcare, such as using the services of a childminder, nanny or nursery 
    Your approach and view’s on managing challenging behaviour 
    Whether your child will be encouraged to follow a religion
    The time that the child will spend with each co-parent including for special events such as their birthday, Christmas and school holidays. 
    Financial support for the child, including any maintenance that may be paid, life insurance and financial provision in the event of your death.

    These agreements, however, are not legally binding. Since they cannot be enforced by UK law, the co-parents must rely on trust. This can leave people concerned about what might happen in the event of a disagreement or other conflicts further down the line.
    Who will be the legal parent? 
    The woman who carries the child will be automatically recognised as the child’s legal parent and detailed on the birth certificate in all circumstances of conception. 
    If you are co-parenting, it is important to consider who will be recognised as the second legal parent on the child’s birth certificate and granted parental responsibility. 
    However, who can be recognised as a parent will depend on the circumstances and the family’s makeup. 
    One male and one female co-parenting 
    If a single female wishes to co-parent with a man, then he can be the child’s legal parent by being registered on the child’s birth certificate, either at the time of the child’s registration (and he will need to be present for this) or through a Statutory Declaration of Parentage or Court Order. 
    If you wish to conceive the child using a registered sperm donation clinic, you will need to consent to his legal parenthood before treatment begins, and a clinic may refer to this as a “known sperm donation”. 
    It is recommended that you use a clinic for this reason. If you proceed with artificial insemination at home, then you are trusting the mother to agree to register the father at birth. 
    Couples who co-parent with a third parent or another couple
    As the law only allows two parents on a birth certificate, if you are looking to co-parent with more than two parents, you need to consider further arrangements to grant parental responsibility for the child through a Parental Responsibility Agreement.  
    For example, if a single female and a gay couple who are married or in a civil partnership agree to co-parent, only one of the men can be registered on the birth certificate as a legal parent alongside the mother.  In these circumstances, a third person can be granted Parental Responsibility as a step-parent of the child or by way of Court Order. 
    This means that while they are not legally defined as a parent on the birth certificate, they have an equal say to the legal parents on the key decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. 
    Find out how to apply for a Parental Responsibility Agreement. 
    Read more about the legal implications of sperm donation, egg-freezing and surrogacy.
    What if we disagree? 
    Meaningful discussions before entering into a co-parenting agreement will hopefully prevent disagreements in the future, but if a disagreement arises regarding the care of your child, you may wish to attend mediation to discuss matters. 
    Alternatively, your lawyer can forward proposals and negotiate on your behalf. Whichever method you choose, the key to an amicable agreement is good communication and realistic expectations.  
    Solicitors can discuss further options such as a roundtable meeting where both lawyers and clients are present or arbitration. 
    If agreements cannot be reached for whatever reason, an application to Court may be advisable.  The application may be for a Specific Issue Order, for example, if you disagree over a choice of schools, a Prohibited Steps (which prevents a parent from doing something), Parental Responsibility or a Child Arrangements Order which sets out how much time a child spends with each child.  
    Get in touch
    If you would like any advice on platonic co-parenting or other family law issues, please contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist lawyers here.  More

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    Ten ways to protect your child against bad experiences

    Adversity, such as abuse, neglect, and poverty, damages children. But protective experiences can build resilience against adversity and promote positive development.
    We identified 10 relationships and resources proven to counter the impact of adverse experiences. They have hidden magic that can transform an otherwise miserable childhood. Perhaps a child has been abused and has an alcoholic or depressed parent – or both. Down the street lives a grandmother who provides safe harbor. Maybe a caring teacher or an athletics coach takes the child under her wing. These are just a few of many protective antidotes that can diminish the toxicity of adverse experiences. They mean that a child’s outcomes may turn out to be much better than expected in the face of difficult circumstances.
    This list of PACEs – Protective and Compensatory Experiences – is based on more than common sense. The impact of such experiences is often identifiable through changes to the brain and in behaviors. For example, experiments with mice graphically demonstrate what can happen when a PACE repairs some of the damage caused by bad early experiences.
    PACEs and genetic changes
     A new mother mouse placed after the she gives birth in an unfamiliar environment with inadequate bedding typically becomes abusive to her pups. She may step on her young, and stop licking or grooming them because she is stressed. These pups grow up and act in a depressed manner, and are more likely to be harsh and fail to nurture their own pups. However, when the pups are fostered by non-stressed, nurturing mothers, over time, the epigenetic change driving their abusive behaviors can be reversed.

    “When children experience multiple forms of adversity, the impacts are magnified. Multiple protective experiences may also have a cumulative effect.”

    We do not yet have data for humans on the epigenetic impact of switching from an adverse to a protective experience. However, infants raised initially in Romanian orphanages who were later fostered in nurturing homes showed developmental benefits that likely mirrored the neurobiological improvements observed in mice.
    Our colleague, David Bard, professor of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, has demonstrated how positive parenting practices in thousands of U.S. families have buffered children against the impacts of adversity. Activities such as reading to children; ensuring they have routines; and taking them to shops, museums, and playgrounds were associated with better learning in preschool and fewer behavioral problems at school than would otherwise have been expected.
    Top 10 protective and compensatory experiences
    From research evidence, we have assembled a list of the top 10 types of relationships and resources that provide the PACEs that bolster children against adversity. These are detailed more extensively in our new book, Adverse and Protective Childhood Experiences: A Developmental Perspective.

    Receiving unconditional love: Not only do children need to be nurtured and loved, that love should feel unconditional. This does not mean that children never get in trouble or parents never get mad. The crucial point is that whatever a child does, the parent stays on the child’s side. As an infant, it means that when you cry, you get a response; your parents make eye contact with you and cherish you; and they sing, play, and talk with you. As a child, you can count on your parent’s eyes lighting up when you walk into the room; mom or dad always has your back. And when you grow older, it means that your parent sets limits and explains how things are done. There are many ways to express unconditional love.
    Having a best friend: Close friendship offers protection from peer rejection, bullying, and victimization. This happens not just because a child has someone to talk to, but because it helps the child learn how to deal with conflict and grow a relationship over time. Children have a sense of being important and they have someone to go to.
    Volunteering in the community: Volunteering helps children learn about the needs of others and gives them the opportunity to see a world outside their own. When they understand that helping is not done out of pity, it allows them to accept help from others when they need it.
    Being part of a group: Being in a group gives children a sense of belonging outside the family. It allows children and teenagers to learn about themselves in different contexts, and provides opportunities for friendship and leadership. Taking part in school clubs and sports is linked to academic success, psychological well-being, and lower rates of substance abuse.
    Having a mentor: Having an adult other than a parent who can be trusted and counted on for help and advice helps protect against psychological distress and academic difficulties, and reduces the incidence of high-risk activities. Even if children have exemplary parents, an adult outside the home can be an alternative role model to whom children can aspire and is a reminder that someone else loves them.
    Living in a clean, safe home with enough food: These primary needs are crucial. Good, regular nutrition is important for brain development and protects against health problems; eating dinner regularly with your family reduces the risk of weight problems. Chaotic, unpredictable home environments are associated with harsh and inconsistent parenting. Children who live in unclean, cluttered homes have worse outcomes than those living in clean, organized homes.
    Getting an education: Just like living in a clean, safe home, the opportunity to learn and be educated in an environment with boundaries and rules also protects children from risk. High-quality early childhood programs make a lasting difference to outcomes for children from low-income families.
    Having a hobby: Whether it is playing an instrument, dancing, doing judo, reading, or playing chess, any recreational activity helps teach self-discipline and self-regulation, and can provide children and youth with a routine and a sense of mastery, competence, and self-esteem.
    Engaging in physical activity: Being physically active helps children handle the physiological effects of stress on the body, and improves mood and mental health. In so doing, it reduces the likelihood that children will grab a bag of chips or lash out to relieve stress.
    Having rules and routines: Security comes when children know what to expect and when caregivers enforce clear rules and limits. Children cannot parent themselves; they need high expectations, consistency, and parents’ involvement. In early childhood, this means that parents should establish and enforce bedtime and other routines, redirect children when they misbehave, and as children grow up, explain the effects of their behavior on others.

    Photo: Anna Earl. Unsplash.
    We know that when children experience multiple forms of adversity, the impacts are magnified. Likewise, multiple protective experiences may have a cumulative effect for children, though the power of this accumulation requires further study.
    PACEs matter for all children
    Adverse experiences can happen anywhere to anyone — the rich as well as the poor. All children should have access to experiences that bolster and protect them. Children from more well-to-do families who face adverse experiences, such as family break-up, mental illness, and substance abuse, are more likely to have compensatory experiences. These might be opportunities to participate in clubs, have tutors, go to drama classes, choose to play an instrument, and have teachers and coaches who really care about them.

    “Down the street lives a grandmother who provides safe harbor. Maybe a caring teacher or athletics coach takes the child under her wing. These are just a few of many protective antidotes that can diminish the toxicity of adverse experiences.”

    In contrast, children in families living in high-crime and high-poverty neighborhoods might lack access to protective experiences because their families have insufficient money or time. These children face a double jeopardy – more adversity and less compensatory protection. Their difficulties have increased in recent decades as many PACE resources, such as youth sports and activities, have become increasingly expensive.
    The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized how alone many parents are as they try to help their children gain access to PACEs. Parents have struggled to support their children’s learning at home, grappling with isolation; lack of routines; inadequate opportunities for exercise and hobbies; and in some cases, lack of enough food to keep children healthy.
    The pandemic reminds us that promoting childhood development is about much more than preventing adversity. We need to think more about how to ensure that children have the good things in life so they are less likely to be hindered by what can go wrong.
    Header photo: Anna Samoylova. Unsplash.  More

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    Separated parents and choosing schools

    Separated parents and schools: What can you do if you disagree on where your children go to school?
    As schools started to open their doors again this week, you could hear an audible sigh of relief from households across the UK as children made the welcome return to education.  
    Due to the covid-19 pandemic, schools’ closing has emphasised the vital role they play in providing education, routine, structure, friendship, and a  safe space for children. 
    This renewed interest may have caused some parents to question whether their children’s school is the best one for them or should they look to move them elsewhere?  In-year applications to move schools can still be submitted, so it is certainly possible. 
    For separated parents, deciding on a school choice can cause complications if they are not in agreement. For those parents that find themselves in this situation, how can a family lawyer help them? 
    The process
    The first step is to discuss your concerns with the other parent and/ or anyone else who has parental responsibility for your child(ren). 
    You may find that there is common ground, and you agree that changing school is in your child’s best interest. 
    If you require assistance in broaching this conversation, you may wish to consider contacting a mediator or lawyer to help you talk about your opinions on the current school and the proposed alternative.
    If you cannot reach an agreement, then it is open to you to refer the matter to the court by way of a Specific Issue application. The court will consider both parent’s positions and order where the child(ren) should attend school. 
    If you are not the child’s parent, but you have parental responsibility, you are the child’s guardian, or you are the person with whom the child(ren) lives as per a Child Arrangements Order, then you may apply for a Specific Issue Order. 
    If you are unsure if you fall into one of the above categories, it is best to check with a lawyer before making your application. 
    Considerations for separated parents choosing schools
    When deciding any children matter, the court will be guided by the welfare checklist, as set out in s1(3) Children Act 1989. 

    The court’s primary concern is the welfare of the children. Would moving school really be in their best interest? 

    Some of the factors that the court will consider are the wishes and feelings of the child(ren) dependent upon their age and understanding, their physical, emotional and educational needs, the likely effect of the change of school upon them, their age, sex and background, and any harm that the child(ren) may be exposed to. 
    When approaching an application for a change of school, you should consider the practicalities of the change, such as how the child(ren) gets to and from school, academic credentials, pastoral factors, such as access to learning support and funding (if applicable). 
    Points to consider 
    Change of schooling can be approached as a standalone issue, irrelevant of whether you are the child’s primary carer. 
    If you have parental responsibility, you have the right, duty and obligation to decide how your child(ren) is educated. 
    The primary focus of any application regarding children should be to act in their best interest with full consideration of their welfare.
    Get in touch 
    If you would like advice as separated parents on choosing schools, please contact our Client Care Team here, who can put you in contact with a specialist child law solicitor.
    Jennifer is an Associate Legal Executive based in our Manchester & Preston offices. More

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    That’s a Good Question! Podcast: Episode 7

    In this episode, we visit with Dr. Shanna Garza the Clinic Director of Girls to Women and Young Men’s Health and Wellness, an Adolescent Medicine practice in McKinney, Texas.

    Dr. Garza received her B.S. in Biology from Emory University and attended medical school at Baylor College of Medicine. Following her medical education, she completed a Family Medicine residency at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. She is a board-certified Family Medicine physician with over 13 years of experience working with children, teens and young adults.
    Eating disorders are a health issue Dr. Garza’s clinics contend with on a regular basis.  There are a lot of societal issues impacting the way young people, especially girls, see themselves and judge themselves. Preoccupation with food, body weight, and shape may signal an eating disorder.
    What is the risk of dieting to young people? Is there a difference between an eating disorder and disordered eating? How does social media, diet talk and body shaming lead to eating disorders? 
    Dr. Garza shares important advice for parents to help our kids navigate this very dangerous and even deadly health issue.  More

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    Can the court force you to vaccinate your children?

    Can the court force you to vaccinate your children?
    The continuing roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccination programme has brought back the debate on the safety and long-term implications of administrating vaccines.  
    Similar to when Andrew Wakefield released his false conclusions that the MMR vaccine could be linked directly to autism,  a minority of people fundamentally opposed to vaccinations have found a voice. 
    The speed at which vaccines for Covid-19 have been approved appears to be at the root of concerns. People who may have previously been pro-vaccine may now have doubts – particularly parents considering vaccinating their children. 
    And while children are not currently in line to receive the vaccine, the current situation shines a spotlight on the difficulties they face if separated parents have very different beliefs about childhood vaccinations.
    The law on vaccines
    Vaccines are not compulsory by law.
    However, there have been several recent court cases that have dealt with childhood vaccinations, including Re H (A Child: Parental Responsibility: Vaccination[2020], a case where a local authority wanted to vaccinate a child in its care against the father’s wishes; and M v H and P and T [2020] EWFC 93, a private law case where the judge ruled that NHS scheduled vaccinations (i.e. MMR and others) were in the best interests of the children despite the mother’s objection. 
    The general principles from the family court are that if the vaccine is approved by the regulator and in the child’s best interests, the court will almost certainly rule in favour of administering the vaccine. 
    Putting aside the arguments for and against, from a child law perspective, this issue is no different from other issues that can arise between parents regarding what the law terms as “specific issues” about their children. These include decisions about which school they should go to, what religious education they should receive or the medical treatment they should have. 
    So what options do you have if you cannot agree on ‘specific issues’ with your ex-partner? 
    Resolve between yourselves 
    The best approach, if possible,  is for parents to agree directly with each other on any arrangements and specific issues as they are the right people to make decisions concerning their children.   
    Family counselling or mediation
    However, this is not possible in certain situations, and the introduction of a neutral third-party can help. 
    Some separated parents can benefit from family counselling and other alternative dispute resolutions services, including mediation and collaborative law. 
    These routes can reduce the time and cost for everyone, avoid protracted court proceedings, benefit future relationships, have a far higher success rate, and put the child’s best interests first. 
    Going to court 
    If all else fails, then the decision will have to be passed to the family courts. 
    The Court can order what is known as a Specific Issue Order under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989. 
    In these circumstances, the Court will have to determine the issues based on what it believes to be in the children’s best interest and not necessarily what the parents want.  
    The court has particular regard to the factors at section s1 (3) of the Children Act 1989, the welfare checklist, namely:
    Wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding);
    Physical, emotional and educational needs;
    Likely effect on him of any change in his circumstances;
    Age, sex and background;
    Any harm or risk of suffering;
    The range of powers available to the court 
    At the moment, children are not due to be vaccinated against Covid-19. However, if the Covid-19 vaccination is approved for children and added to the NHS list of childhood vaccination, we may see an influx of applications for a specific issue order for a child to have the vaccine being made to the courts. 
    Considering the current backlog at the family courts, exacerbated by the pandemic, where possible, it always preferable for parents to resolve matters outside of the courts. 
    Get in touch
    If you would like any legal advice as you cannot agree on ‘specific issues’ with your ex-partner please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist divorce lawyers here.  More

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    “Why are we still at home?” Fostering children’s questions during COVID-19

    Mom, why do penguins have wings?
    Because they were born with them.
    But, why do they have them, if they can’t fly?
    Because their wings help them swim.
    Because they’re like flippers in the water.
    Why are they like flippers?
    They just are.
    This type of conversation is nothing new to parents of young children. The constant “why’s” of childhood can be exasperating, as children repeatedly push for more and more information. But despite the challenging nature of these moments, these “why” questions are actually quite important for children’s learning: They show adults what children want to learn (Callanan & Oakes, 1992), reveal what they are naturally curious about, and help them gain information about the world around them. In the example above, the child learned that penguins’ wings are not meant to help them fly at all, but to help them swim. In this case, the child’s causal questions, aimed at gaining explanations, were persistent: She wanted specific information and was unsatisfied with her mother’s initially circular answer.
    Research suggests that children demonstrate these persistent questioning behaviors often, sometimes even coming up with their own answers and explanations when parents don’t give a satisfying answer (Kurkul & Corriveau, 2018). Even infants do this. Although babies can’t ask verbal questions, they use pointing gestures to request information from adults (Kovacs et al., 2014). Infants are also persistent — they continue pointing when an adult provides an unsatisfying answer to their nonverbal query (Lucca & Wilbourn, 2019).

    Although asking questions is commonplace in childhood, the “new normal” brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic may affect children’s inquiries. As many news outlets and school announcements remind us, we are currently living in “unprecedented times” in the wake of the virus. How does a worldwide pandemic affect children’s questions?

    The research is clear: Children ask questions about the world and persist in asking their questions when they aren’t satisfied with the answers. Why? Because children are curious and know that adults can provide them with rich information. Children’s questions become even more incredible when we open our eyes to the complexities that allow questions to flow so seamlessly from their mouths: They must identify where they need information, come up with a question to address the gap in their knowledge, and direct their query to an appropriate, knowledgeable person.
    Although asking questions is commonplace in childhood, the “new normal” brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic may affect children’s inquiries. As many news outlets and school announcements remind us, we are currently living in “unprecedented times” in the wake of the virus. How does a worldwide pandemic affect children’s questions?
    During stay-at-home orders, children may have fewer experiences with other children and adults. Research suggests that as preschoolers develop, they become more skilled at directing their questions to appropriate people (Choi et al., 2018). For example, they learn over time that some questions will be answered better by adults than by children. Without practice asking questions and evaluating responses from different children and adults, children may not be as well prepared to ask and answer questions.
    Additionally, children are missing out on many of the stimulating experiences they had before the pandemic, experiences that prompt curiosity and questions. For example, one study found that children asked fewer questions when viewing replicas or drawings of animals than when viewing live animals in a zoo (Chouinard et al., 2007). Questions about penguins’ wings, for example, might just not get asked. Television or videos don’t promote that much inquiry, either: Young children do not learn as much from television as they do from live interactions (Anderson & Pempek, 2005). Nor do electronic toys or tablets seem to spur children’s questions as often as real interactions do (Neale et al., 2020).
    How can we expose children to objects and events to stimulate their questions during quarantines? Here are several ideas you can try:
    Demonstrate how to ask questions. Even during a pandemic, children mimic what they see. Parents who ask questions have children who ask more questions. Instead of asking simple yes/no questions, try asking open-ended questions that use why and These are questions that get children thinking. Kids learn words more successfully when the words are presented as parts of questions rather than as statements.
    Curiosity spurs questions. Look at what your child is looking at. If you ask them a question, they might then ask you one. On a walk or in a park, ask questions about what you see. There is so much to query, for example, why do leaves fall off trees? Even watching a snow plow salt the roads can spark children’s curiosity. Why does salt make the snow melt? These experiences can elicit genuine, causal questions from children. Sometimes, children just need to be given the opportunity to ask. And we need to have the impetus to use the web to find the answers.
    Parents’ attention enables questions. Preliminary research in our lab suggests that children are more likely to ask questions when their parents are undistracted than when the adults are using their cell phones. It’s difficult to separate work and home during the pandemic, but try to reserve some time each day that is off limits for phones. Putting your phone away can signal to children that you are available, listening, and ready to respond to their questions.
    Children are curious. They want to know.  And digital babysitting leaves that thirst for knowledge unsatiated. Although the pandemic certainly raises obstacles to some of the experiences that typically stimulate children’s questions, parents have the power to increase children’s inquiry, even at home.
    Header photo: Tinuke Bernard. Unsplash. More