During times of crisis, we tend to react from a base of fear. However, we all react or respond to fear in slightly different ways. And that’s okay.
The important thing in co-parenting during this time is that you recognise there is more than one way to get through this. It's also likely that you may have different approaches as to what's best.
The biggest concern of co-parenting through this current coronavirus crisis is if the children can move between homes safely during any future quarantines. And if not, what will happen to existing court orders or parenting agreements. I know some parents are concerned about breaches or being accused of withholding children.
In short, you should follow the government advice or specific advice of your health care professional. If you or your children are diagnosed or being tested for coronavirus, then the government health advice is that you will be required to stay in isolation. This may affect your normal co-parenting routine.
It’s better to be prepared and have this conversation in advance.
Work out what you will do, how you will both manage and you what you will do if the children are disadvantaged in time with the other parent.
It’s best if you can be flexible, considerate and accomodating. Most of all, be child-focused.
If being in quarantine is a contravention of existing orders then I recommend the following.
If you normally communicate directly, email or phone your co-parent and advise them of the current situation. Talk rationally, calmly and sensitively about the situation at hand. Be considerate that this may disrupt their routine and may require a short adjustment period for them to consider.
It can be a good idea to flag a conversation with an initial message that says "we might have some disruptions due to the coronavirus. I was wondering if we could talk this through?. Can I call at (time)?"
If you have, or feel you need a lawyer, contact them and ask them to communicate with your co-parents lawyer about the current health status and any anticipated changes in parenting time.
If you are the parent who is not with your children and the children can not be safely returned to you for your scheduled time, remain calm. These are exceptional circumstances and eventually, life will be returned to normal.
These are my recommendations
- Communicate calmly, openly and with a child-focused approach.
- If quarantined, facilitate FaceTime calls for the children with their other parent.
- Act on specific medical or government advice only. Do not listen to advice from well-meaning friends or social media.
- Keep each other openly and honestly informed in relation to the health status of yourselves and people the children may have come into contact with.
- Some people who have compromised immunity disorders may be on specific advice to remain in social isolation at this time. This may be extended family such as grandparents.
- If you or the children are NOT diagnosed or being tested for coronavirus, then shared parenting should continue as normal.
Please remember, we are ALL going through something unusual. Keep calm and keep communication open, honest and sensitive to the fact that we are all dealing with something a little unknown. However, there is no reason to panic. Calm communication is your best tool.
See our parenting after separation course for more tips on improved communication.