Enabling contact with your children during coronavirus: a guide for separated parents
As the nation deals with the coronavirus, life is changing almost by the hour. Routines so familiar to us all have been completely changed by this pandemic and everyone will have to find new ways of working and going about their daily business.
Many separated parents will be wondering what they can do about spending time with their children over the next few months. All separated parents will need to work together to establish new plans and routines to ensure that their children are not disadvantaged while the nation complies with government’s clear advice to minimise all social contact and self-isolate if you are ill.
Here are Richard’s top tips for enabling contact in these difficult times:
(2) Use apps on your phone, tablet or PC like WhatsApp, FaceTime, Skype and Facebook Messenger to make videocalls. You could also encourage your children to make videomessages to send to the non-resident parent.
(2) Though government guidance suggests that direct contact between non-resident parents and their children can take place, bear in mind that it may not be appropriate to follow that guidance in all cases: for example, where children usually have contact in homes in which vulnerable people are present.
(3) If you do consider that contact is possible, communication is key: make sure that you agree with each other what can and cannot be done; for example, you might want to agree that you avoid public spaces or certain shops in order to limit the possibility of catching the virus.
(4) Make agreements about schoolwork if there are to be extended periods of contact – ideally you want to move the children about as little as possible in order to minimise the likelihood of you, your children or other family members contracting the virus. Remember that if one person in a household contracts the virus then all the residents in that household should immediately self-isolate according to government guidance.
(5) Ensure that every member in your respective households, not just you and the children, rigorously enforces and sticks to an extremely high standard of personal and domestic hygiene. Remember, the virus can survive for extended periods of time on work surfaces if not adequately and frequently cleaned and so it is in everybody’s interest to maintain scrupulous hand washing and cleanliness.
(6) Remember that children do watch TV and will overhear what adults talk about. They will need reassurance and love from both parents during this pandemic, particularly as they may be anxious and/or feel stressed as a result of what they see and hear. It is important to minimise parental conflict and to remain calm in front of your children; they will have questions and so it is important to discuss the pandemic with them, using age-appropriate language, whilst at the same time being a source of comfort.
(7) If you can’t agree a way forward, you should consider mediation. Many mediators are available remotely and can set up videoconferencing. Remember that most Android phones have a teleconference facility on them which you can use as an alternative to videoconferencing
(8) If you both agree that contact should not take place until government guidance changes, consider agreeing in principle that some extended contact should take place at an appropriate point in the future and certainly try to ensure as much indirect (telephone/video contact) as you can both agree.
(9) Remember that the Courts are working remotely insofar as it is possible to do but if all else fails you are able to make an urgent application to the Court to vary or set up a contact regime. You should take legal advice before doing so and you should think very carefully before embarking on this course of action as you may in the long run do more harm than good.
(10) Above all, communicate with each other, understand and appreciate and be sympathetic to each other’s positions and concerns, and those of your children. You will need to manage the risks and make judgment calls every day as the situation evolves. Stay safe and do not travel at all if you or a member of your household shows symptoms of the virus: further advice can be found at the NHS webpage on https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/.
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