Co-Parenting During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Author: Liz Borger, Q.Med, MBA

You and your co-parent have invested a lot of time creating a parenting plan for your child(ren). It lists everything you do in a week to care for your child(ren). Wake-up times, bedtime, bath time, dietary needs, school, homework schedules, play-dates, extra-curricular activities, doctor’s appointments, dentist appointments, childcare, screen time, and the list continues. No stone is left unturned. Now, a world pandemic has occurred. Life no longer relates to the detailed parenting plan. There are many rumours circulating about what you can and can’t do with your child(ren). Will you be able to see your children? It’s a scary and confusing time.

How do co-parents navigate this new normal?

With the permission of one of our clients, we are sharing their parenting story over the last few weeks and how they are navigating the new normal.

Our clients have two teenage children who have shared custody and get along well. They have an excellent parenting plan that covers all the details of their children’s needs, extracurricular activities, etc. The kids stay at each parent’s house 1 week/1week.

Our first call from them was about children moving from one residence to the other residence during the quarantine. They heard a rumour that parents had to choose a house for their children to quarantine at. Thus, leaving the co-parent unable to have their parenting time with the children until quarantine was lifted. This information caused a lot of panic and stress for the co-parents. We provided them with information that Dr. Deena Hinshaw clarified that current restrictions do not mean “parents or children would need to choose which household to stay in” and that parents should do their best to contain the number of people their family are in contact with. This critical information decreased the stress these co-parents were feeling of possibly not being able to see their children.

The second call from our clients was related to child and spousal support. Due to sudden changes in our economic climate, an adjustment in child and spousal support needed to occur. The initial reaction was panic. We do not advise you to go against court ordered payments, but a temporary arrangement can be made between the co-parents. After we facilitated a conversation between the parties, they realized the current world situation needed them to work together for their children. Both parties agreed that a small portion of child and spousal support was to be deferred during the current world crisis. The support payments would be reviewed on a monthly basis with the deferred amounts to be paid at a later date agreed to by both.

The third call from our clients was related to one of their children missing school. One co-parent, in this case, takes care of all school-related responsibilities for the children. While the child was in the other parent’s care, the child missed two days of home school and was alerted by the teacher. We facilitated a discussion between the co-parents about the responsibility of ensuring the children are in their zoom classrooms when they need to be. In this case, they decided a step-parent was to be made responsible for ensuring the child was in the zoom classroom because the child’s parent is an ‘essential worker’ and is away from the residence.

These are just three items that came up for this wonderful, extended family navigating the new normal of COVID-19. They were both flexible, patient, and realistic with the plans they needed to make to help navigate their children through this crisis. One parent was so worried about their child missing school on the other parent’s week, that they were willing to go to the other parent’s house each day just before the zoom classroom time to make sure their child would not miss school. The other parent set-up a new system at their house to ensure their child would not miss school to reduce the worry of the other parent. They enlisted the help of a step-parent, knowing that it sometimes takes a village to ensure children’s needs are adequately met.

This family already knows how to communicate well. They are learning they need to communicate more and remember that everyone is doing the best that they can. They’ve put their temporary modifications in writing and are working together to ensure their family gets what they need and stays healthy during this difficult time.

Something we all need to remember as we navigate COVID-19 is self-care. Getting out for at least 30 minutes of physical activity with appropriate social distancing is very important to our physical and mental health. If the situation persists, and finding resolution is difficult, contact us at www.FreshStartMediation.ca. Our team can help you with creative solutions to overcome to any of the unforeseen issues that may arise from changing realities.

Our job is to listen to what you need, to provide the solutions you want. We look forward to hearing from you.

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