Coronavirus: Families adjust to new rules on childcare

Some say goodbye for a month as kids go to stay with grandparents; others are relieved at exemptions

The Government said on April 9 that parents will no longer be allowed to drop their children off at a grandparent's residence on a daily basis. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

It is going to be a long month for hospitality workers Tan Minghsien and her husband with no chance to see their two young daughters amid the tighter restrictions.

The best they can do will be to make daily video calls to the girls, aged three and five, who will be staying with their 72-year-old maternal grandmother.

The couple dropped the children off at their grandmother's Housing Board flat in Ang Mo Kio on Saturday afternoon.

"The girls were reluctant to pack up and leave our apartment and this will be a huge adjustment for us, but my husband and I will not be able to make time to fully care for them during this period," said Ms Tan, 35.

The couple opted for the arrangement as their work in the food and beverage industry entails long hours.

"We don't know how long this circuit breaker will last and this might be goodbye for over a month, but it would be irresponsible for us to possibly expose my mother and our children to the virus on a daily basis," said Ms Tan.

The Government said last Thursday that parents will no longer be allowed to drop their children off at a grandparent's residence on a daily basis - a move aimed at protecting seniors, who are more vulnerable to the coronavirus.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong had said children could be left with the grandparents throughout the circuit breaker period.

The Health Ministry then made exemptions for parents who are essential service workers and are unable to work from home so that they could continue to ask grandparents to care for their children on a daily basis.

A pre-school teacher who wanted to be known only as Ms H, 37, said she was relieved when the exemption was announced.

Pre-school teachers are considered essential service workers.

The mother of a boy, five, and a three-year-old girl said that while she can send her children to pre-school, she would prefer that they stay at home to reduce the risk of getting the virus. "Because we take public transport, I didn't want them to have to take the bus and go to school," she said.

Ms H said she did not want to leave her children with her elderly parents, aged 71 and 67, for a month: "I think they would go insane. They are older; it is not easy for them to look after younger children."

She will instead drop them off at her parents' place if she needs help.

Senior social worker Poh Ee-lyn of Fei Yue Community Services said parents and grandparents should try to be patient with the children as they adjust to a new place.

Keeping to the same routine the child is used to is one way to ease the transition, noted Ms Poh, adding: "Parents can also drop off their child's favourite items like their blanket, which may remind them of home or of the parent, such as a T-shirt."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: Families adjust to new rules on childcare. Subscribe