Never has a period of time brought forth such use of the word “unprecedented”. The use is of course justified as these are times for which there simply is no road map or blueprint. Lockdown is a situation that was only put in place previously during airstrikes during World War II. Even then the situation was not entirely the same. I have already written guidance for those self-isolating in a house with a partner they’re separating from. I now want to look at writing a help guide for those who are co-parenting across two homes at this challenging time.
You can watch a video I put together about this and/or read the blog below.
The first piece of important information is that parents are permitted to leave their homes to transport their child or children to the other parent’s house. The government made something of a dog’s dinner of clarifying this situation so it’s important to note that this point may not be clear. The only exception to this would be if there were symptoms of COVID-19 (i.e a high temperature or a dry cough) in one parent’s house when the child was there. In which case the child would be part of that household self-isolating for 14 days and would not then be able to go to the other parent’s house. If the child developed symptoms then they would need to self-isolate for 7 days, even if this took them over the original 14 days.
So potentially a parent may not see their child for 21 days if the child ended up self-isolating with the other parent. This is tough. Especially so for parents who share care of their children through the week so they never go more than a few days without seeing the child.
There are also difficult decisions to be made for those families whose households include a member who is in the vulnerable category. This could be a parent with asthma or a lung condition (or other ongoing health condition) or a grandparent living in the same household who is over 70. In these circumstances there may be difficult decisions to make about whether you continue to co-parent as usual during this difficult time. Having a child moving between households could potentially pose an increased risk to a vulnerable person that needs to be considered. There simply aren’t right or wrong answers in this situation and it’s important that you give thought to what is right for your family. You may wish to give some thought to:
- If the vulnerable member of your household is an older or vulnerable relative is there another family member they can stay with at this time to prevent the increased risk being past to them of the child going between houses; or is it possible for them to be isolated within your household i.e having their own room and bathroom away from others?
- Is there an increased risk posed by the other parent’s household? Are they a key worker continuing to go out to work and mix with others who are potentially carrying the virus? Or are they staying at home and not going out and so of a lower risk?
- How might your child feel if they were not able to see the other parent for some time? How do they cope with changes to their routine? For children diagnosed with ASD even small changed in their routines can have a big impact.
- Can you mitigate the difficulties for the child with the use of regular video chats by Facetime or what’s app or other such technology? These technologies are also useful if a child ends up self-isolating with one parent and unable to see the other. You can be really creative with these. I am aware of clients using these for chats and discussions, home schooling and reading stories for quite long chunks of time.
- Can you re-jig your current routine to provide for time with each parent in a way that poses less of a risk to other members of each household? This might include longer periods of time with each parent.
- Many mediators are carrying on helping those going through (or who have been through) a separation and so if you’re finding it hard to work out these challenging issues then consider using family mediation as a safe space to have difficult discussions. Meetings would need to take place online but can be a useful way of exploring and understanding all the options and finding a mutually palatable way forward.
It’s important to remember that your situation is your situation and whilst it may cause you both some upset and anxiety the object is to find a way forward everyone can live with. This situation won’t be forever and a solution is a temporary fix to a unique set of circumstances. Don’t worry about what others are doing but focus on what will work for you. Be creative and innovative in finding a solution to your particular challenges. As long as it works for you no one will interfere with it. Please get in touch if you feel you could do with some professional guidance and support.