We know parenting comes with its highs and lows, but no one could’ve predicted this.
For many, challenges caused by COVID-19 are adding to the stress of already difficult family circumstances.
School closures, travel bans, and social distancing might interfere with your normal co-parenting arrangements, and navigating these changes can cause anxiety for you and your child.
We hope these co-parenting tips make it easier to get through this difficult time.
Keep Your Child Informed
While you may want to protect your child from negative news, talking to them about what’s going on can help them understand why things might be a bit different for a while.
When talking to your child about coronavirus, remember to:
- Remain calm and reassuring
- Share information in an age-appropriate way
- Be sensitive to their fear and anxiety
- Encourage questions
- Stick to the facts and explain that some information online isn’t true
- Don’t share more information than you need to in order to avoid overwhelming them
- Focus on what you’re doing to stay safe and why changes to routine are necessary.
If possible, talk to your co-parent and agree on the best way to approach the topic so your child is getting consistent messages. With the support of both parents, your child may be able to adjust more quickly and easily to new arrangements.
Show Them How to Protect Themselves
One of the best ways to protect your child’s safety is to teach them how to follow health advice. It doesn’t have to be scary – for example, you might like to put on their favourite song while showing them how to wash their hands properly to make it a fun learning activity. Or check out The Wiggles: The Handwashing Song.
Explain why playground equipment is a no-go zone and why playdates are off limits for now, and find alternative options to socialise, like video calls and online games with their friends.
Work together with your co-parent to determine rules around hygiene and social distancing to keep your kid’s safety as your main priority.
Be Compliant with Court Orders
You still have to meet the terms of court orders and parenting agreements during COVID-19, unless you have a good reason not to or you both agree on other arrangements.
School closures, travel restrictions, or quarantine rules may mean you’re unable to follow some aspects of your court orders. If this is the case, you’ll need to give your co-parent plenty of notice and work together to come up with a solution that suits everyone.
For example, if you’d normally do changeovers at a café, play centre, or shopping centre that’s now closed due to COVID-19, try to agree on a different changeover location.
Be sure to get any changes to your custody agreement in writing – even if it’s just through text message. Keeping a clear record of changes will help everyone, including the Court, to understand what agreements were reached.
The Family Court of Australia has published an FAQs page with more helpful information on co-parenting and family law.
Work with Your Co-Parent
Co-parenting involves making plenty of decisions together – especially right now. Try to be flexible and understanding as you work as a team to keep your child’s best interests as your main priority.
For example, if your co-parent is in self-isolation and it’s unsafe for your child to physically spend time with them, accommodate other ways to communicate, such as over the phone or video calls. Offer to make up for the time apart now with more time together in the future.
Understand that times are tough for your co-parent, too, so try to approach tricky conversations with compassion and open-mindedness.
Maintain Routine Where you Can
While you may need to make changes to your normal arrangements, it’s important to try and maintain some sense of ‘normal’ for your child by setting a daily routine.
Routine makes children feel safe. Keeping days structured with regular mealtimes and bedtimes can help bring them a sense of comfort and security during a time of immense change and uncertainty.
Keep Up to Date on Important Information
Health advice and government guidelines are changing rapidly. Pay attention to the latest information and updates with reputable sources such as:
- Coronavirus Australia App
- Family Court of Australia COVID-19 Updates and Information
- Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak – World Health Organisation information and updates
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) Health Alert – Updates on the situation in Australia
- Current Status and Contact Tracing Alerts – Updates on the situation in Queensland
- COVID-19 and Travel – Travel guidelines for Australian citizens
- Novel Coronavirus Test
- Self-Quarantine Requirements.
Look After Yourself
This is a stressful time for everyone, and it’s reasonable to be feeling anxious. A few ways to maintain your emotional wellbeing might include:
- Staying in touch with friends and family via safe mediums such as text, phone calls, video calls, and letters
- Finding support from other parents in online groups and forums
- Eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep
- Taking a break from negative news in the media.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need to talk to someone, you can access our telephone counselling on 1300 364 277. Our professional counsellors are available to talk Mon-Fri 8am-8pm and Sat 10am-4pm.