Official concerned over increased breakdown in family structures emerging from pandemic

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Director at Family and Social Services Division, Feona Charles-Richards. (Social media photo)
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By Makeida Antonio

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A family is usually the first and main agent of socialisation in community life, and the government agency responsible for the family says it has observed concerning trends arising from the impact of Covid-19 on the society.

Heavy protocols and lockdown measures implemented to tackle the spread of Covid-19 in Antigua and Barbuda resulted in workers being laid off, especially those in the hospitality industry.

Considering that tourism is the main source of income for Antigua and Barbuda, this was certainly a significant number of people who were out of work and were left dealing with various stressors.

Evidence of people being affected by stressors can present in different ways, including excessive drinking, drug use, or a change in personality due to the death of a loved one.

Director of the Family and Social Services Division, Feona Charles-Richards has been tracking an uptick in family disturbances across the country.

“We recognise an increase in family matters cases, issues with neglect and child abuse within Antigua and Barbuda. We are seeing an increase in sexual abuse amongst family members and predators being fathers, stepfathers, uncles, cousins, etc.,” Charles-Richards told Observer yesterday.

The Director of the Family and Social Services Division believes there is an ongoing decline of the extended family.

She suggested that adults close to the family or in the community should assume more responsibility associated with healthy family life

“Not just as family members, but perhaps as godparents, even as distant cousins, even as grandparents that we take a hold of our children in terms of supporting, educating and ensuring that they have safe spaces to express thoughts, ideas, feelings, challenges and sometimes their own anxiety and fears,” Charles-Richards added.

Additionally, she encouraged parents to seek online resources to help manage and cope with the immense pressures of parenting in a modern world.

According to Charles-Richards, “It is important for us as a community that we encourage parents to find ways of gaining knowledge on parenting skills. We now all have access to mobile phones, let’s utilise them in the right ways. If we don’t know, we ask, search see what is the best approach in parenting.”

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