Co-parenting after divorce can be challenging. Add the continually evolving global pandemic COVID-19, and co-parenting decisions can suddenly feel like a matter of life and death. What do you do if you and your child’s co-parent disagree about potential risks and how they relate to visiting schedules and activities? 

It’s an issue we’re beginning to see at Evans Family Law as the weeks of maintaining emergency measures in Manitoba tick by. So, when I came across this first-person article in The Washington Post on co-parenting in the time of social distancing by New England contributor, Jaimie Seaton, it caught my eye. 

Seaton outlines the challenges she and other separated parents are experiencing when it comes to maintaining their usual care schedules. We’re all scrambling to understand protocols for physical distancing, self-isolation, and quarantine. But, as the article points out, co-parents need to come to an agreement about how they are going to navigate this health care crisis when it comes to seeing their children and making decisions about their care. They also need to be flexible and keep the best interests of their children in mind.

Seattle area parenting coach, Karen Bonnell, is quoted in the article and offers an excellent strategy for resolving differences about how to respond to the risks that come with the pandemic:

If parents are struggling with what protocols to follow, I’ll say, ‘I want you to call the consulting nurse at the pediatrician’s office, and I want you to commit to the guidelines that your chosen and agreed-upon health-care provider is asking you to follow during this crisis.’

Bonnell says that co-parents are more likely to listen to an expert than to each other, even if what the expert is saying has the same message as one of the parents. It’s a sound suggestion. An objective opinion from a recognized authority can reduce the conflict by taking the decision out of the hands of the parents. 

In Manitoba, the province has set up an online COVID-19 guide to help people navigate the protocols for various situations, and it includes links to resources for staying informed and seeking help if needed. The site is the right place for co-parents to get the knowledge they need to reach a shared understanding of what authorities recommend for staying safe and healthy.

As difficult as it might be, the measures we’re taking to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus will be in place for some time to come. Co-parents will need to exercise even greater patience and flexibility when it comes to their child care arrangements and schedules for the safety and health of themselves and their children. If that becomes a challenge, it’s time to seek expert advice.

By Richard Pollock

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