If you share the care of your children with their other parent, things just got more complicated. With COVID-19 throwing carefully-laid plans out the window, co-parents must step-up for the sake of their children.
In Australia, we have different states enforcing different rules and a media hype confusing everyone. For co-parents this may mean disagreements and a desperate search for guidance.
Try not to panic though as there are ways to work together and continue providing the best level of care and safety for your children. Here are six support tips for separated parents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. STAY HEALTHY AND STOP THE SPREAD
We all have a role to play regarding the spread of COVID-19. This includes personal and household hygiene and social distancing. Many families have chosen to self-isolate to prevent the spread and protect those at risk in their community.
If your children are living between two homes, it is important that both parents and households are following correct guidelines. This way, your children can move from home-to-home without putting themselves or others at unnecessary risk.
To ensure both you and your ex-partner are on the same page use these Government Health Guidelines. These also include other important information such as symptoms of COVID-19 and what to do if you suspect you or a family member has it.
2. PARENTING ARRANGEMENTS
If you have a parenting plan or consent orders in place, it is important that you continue to meet your obligations. In some cases, this will become impossible due to circumstances such as:
- Travel restrictions
- School closures
- Public handover venue closures
- Quarantine or self-isolation
- Other health related concerns
If you need to change your parenting arrangements, communicate with the other parent as soon as possible to allow them to adapt and find a solution which is in the best interests of your children.
We recommend that you agree any changes in writing (either text or email) so you both know where you stand. This may also come in handy should the matter arise in court at a later date.
Note: Should your children have lessened contact with one parent, make the effort to ensure they still have communication with this parent by Skype, Facetime or phone. Not only is it important to be seen to encourage this connection, but it will help your children who may feel worried about the parent they are not with.
3. NEXT LEVEL COMMUNICATION
Communication is key to any good co-parenting relationship, but during a pandemic it is more essential than ever.
Use these unprecedented to times to reach-out to your ex-partner. Ask them if they are OK and have everything need. Show compassion in your communication with them. Everyone is frightened at this time, but we all show this in different ways and many are afraid to admit it.
When discussing arrangements or changed-care for your children, stick to the point and try not to allow fear and worry to cloud your judgement. Focus only on the best outcome for your children. If communication strays, be the one to bring it back to topic.
You may find that you pull together to get through this, and ultimately it could be a positive step-up for your co-parenting relationship.
4. FIND AND SHARE THE RIGHT INFORMATION
The amount of ‘information’ available about the Coronavirus is over-whelming. Unfortunately, most of it is from non-expert sources providing hearsay and personal opinions.
When caring for your family you must access correct, up-to-date information. To be on the same page as your ex-partner, you need to use the same information.
Use these reliable websites to stay up to speed:
- Australian Government Department of Health for everything you need to know about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in terms of health. Including what it actually is, symptoms, social distancing and self-isolation.
- Health Direct has further medical information related to Coronavirus (COVID-19) as well as a handy symptom checker.
- Smart Traveller provides Australians with the latest information and advice for safe overseas travel.
- Prime Minister of Australia to get the latest media statements from the Prime Minister as they happen.
Share the above links with your ex-partner and hopefully the information will help you to resolve issues and disputes.
5. USE COMMON SENSE
What is happening with the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. No one was prepared and government and health services are thinking on their feet. The reality is that no-one has exact answers to the big questions, and they certainly don’t have a ‘guide to co-parenting during a pandemic’. For this reason, common sense must prevail.
For example, if you need to quarantine and have time to prepare, discuss with your ex-partner where the children would be most comfortable for the 14-day period. Also consider which parent is better placed to care for them. Perhaps one of you is medically trained or one is immune compromised.
If you have a dilemma around your parenting arrangements and you can’t find the answer, it is because there isn’t one. Instead, decide based on the best result for your children and good old common sense.
6. FINANCIAL WORRIES
Most people will be facing financial concerns at this time. Any financial issues around you or your ex-partner will impact your children. For this reason, try to be understanding of the situation the other parent is in.
If your ex-partner has been made redundant and you are working from home and still earning, your Child Support estimate will change. Show goodwill by being understanding and lenient around maintenance.
Remember, a parent left without work and extreme rent worries is not going to be able to parent well, and ultimately, it is your children who will suffer. Reach out, pull together and stand united for your little ones.