How to Develop a Plan for COVID-19 for Separated Parents:
Sharing from Family Law Colleague, Tacoma Attorney Chelsea Miller.
How to Develop a Plan for COVID-19 for Separated Parents:
If you are engaged in a high conflict separation, consider asking your attorney to reach
out to the opposing counsel or party to first engage in these discussions.
First agree on a method for communication i.e. e-mail, talking parents, OFW, texting, or phone contact.
Connect with other parent to create a plan for discussion of the virus with the children; Consider having a separate discussion with young children in order to use language they can understand and to address specific fears or misconceptions they may have.
Agree to reassure kids they’re safe in both homes.
Reach a consensus on how to explain to children in an age appropriate manner what COVID-19 is, using science based facts: https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/02/28/809580453/just-for-kids-a-comic-exploring-the-new-coronavirus or https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/talking-with-children.html
Revisit handwashing techniques: pick a song to sing in both households while hand washing for at least 20 seconds; https://www.fatherly.com/love-money/best-hand-washing-songs-for-kids/ Continuity is Key!
Discuss physical contact and create a unified position on alternatives to hugs, handshakes, and other social contact (waving, elbow bumping, namaste); Discuss not touching faces and how to cover your mouth when coughing.
Agree to pause all group activities and have a joint statement to explain to the children why these precautions are taking place regarding these activities.
Agree on one parent to be the liaison to check in with your children’s school about potential homeschooling and/or other learning opportunities that may be offered during a school closure. Also, if your child receives additional services at school, ask how these will be handled during a closure (e.g., meals, therapeutic services). Share this information between households and reach a consensus on how these will fit into your plan. Immediately share any information related to school or work closures with the other parent.
Agree to let children discuss worries openly with both parents, but have a joint plan for addressing these concerns and offering reassurance; Agree that if any child wants to contact the other parent at any time that they may for comfort.
Limit exposure to news on television, internet, radio, etc.
Reach an agreement related to school or daycare attendance.
Make a plan together for the event of possible exposure- write this plan
down and confirm agreement in writing.
If either parent believes they have been exposed, they will identify to the other parent immediately and contact medical professionals for advisement. Any subsequent testing results shall be shared with the other parent.
If either parent or child experiences symptoms (Fever, Chills, Upper Respiratory) exchanges will pause with the children with whichever parent they are with to avoid spread until testing occurs or the parent/child is no longer exhibiting symptoms (minimum of 48 hour pause).
Determine which health professional will be called if the child exhibits symptoms. Do not go to medical facilities without contacting the other parent first. The parent currently with the child will accommodate testing and any other directives issued by health professionals. If testing is negative for COVID-19 exchanges shall resume.
If either parent or child is exposed, the other parent will isolate in accordance with the CDC recommendations and the directives of all medical or state health departments.
Agree that all areas of conflict will be avoided during this period; this includes issues related to any active litigation.
Plan on secondary contact in the event of isolation- skype, facetime, etc. Create a schedule and a method. If possible, provide the child with a method they can utilize without parental assistance to give the child free opportunity to reach out to either parent for reassurance, i.e. iPad, tablet.
Address Home Care.
Agree that in the event of isolation both parents will cooperate to ensure the children have access to items such as a stuffed animals, blankets, or other comfort items where they are isolated. Create a plan for no-contact drop off (trash bags on porches, etc.)
Communicate resource needs for the children openly i.e. tissues, toilet paper, medicine, hydration, etc. Work together to mesh resources (without physical contact) to ensure proper home care and continuity of any other healthcare needs the child may need.
If your child takes medication for a chronic condition, talk with your child’s medical provider about plans to get a supply at home that will last through any period of home isolation for your family.
Agree to keep your family’s schedule consistent when it comes to bedtimes, meals, and exercise.
Make time to do things at home that have made you and your family feel better in other stressful situations, such as reading, watching movies, listening to music, playing games, exercising, or engaging in religious activities (prayer, participating in services on the Internet).
Have children participate in distance learning opportunities that may be offered by their schools or other institutions/organizations.
Recognize that feelings such as loneliness, boredom, fear of contracting disease, anxiety, stress, and panic are normal reactions to a stressful situation such as a disease outbreak. Reassure children rather than weaponize these feelings against the other parent.
Help your family engage in fun and meaningful activities consistent with your family and cultural values.
Other Resources to Share:
Parent/Caregiver Guide to COVID 19: https://www.nctsn.org/resources/parent-caregiver-guide-to-helping-families-cope-with-the-coronavirus-disease-2019
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network: https://www.nctsn.org/ .