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Submitted by Adv. Veerash Srikison – Director of Fair Practice Mediation Services. For more information on resolving your disputes go to  www.fairpractice.co.za or email info@fairpractice.co.za  Online mediation appointments are available from the comfort of your home or office.  This article is not legal advice.

While the country faces a lockdown , many co-parents have to decide how best to manage their contact schedule during this time.  This time calls for reasonable mindsets that are open and adaptable.

Co-parenting tips during lockdown

Co-parents will have to devise a temporary schedule that accommodates new working schedules and access to resources. Amongst others, decisions will have to be made on accommodation, communication and emergencies. Here are some tips to guide you:

Where to stay

  • By now parents would have made arrangements on where their children will reside during the ‘lock down” period as movement of children is prohibited, but still provide means of allowing the non-resident co-parent to have social connection with their child, even though they are physically apart

  • Understand that one parent may have more time with your child than the other if travelling between homes is not essential. You can both discuss how these extra days can be made up at another time or during a holiday season.
  • Understand that under instances where contact was supervised, this may not be available until the lockdown is lifted and social distancing is no longer an issue.

Communication

  • Keep communication open and respectful. This is not the time to discuss past behaviour patterns or to engage in bickering and arguments. 
  • Use methods of teleconferencing or applications that allow you to FaceTime or Skype your children. This will alleviate any anxiety or alienation they may feel from the other parent.  Alternatively, agree on calling your child at a scheduled time.
  • When you each speak to your children, use words of kindness. Reassure them that this is temporary.
  • Please ensure that there is no guilt tripping your child for not being with you. You need to be the voice of reason. Assure them that as uncertain as things are, both of you agree that the best decision was for the child to be where he/she/they currently is/are.

In case of emergency

  • Speak to your co-parent about ways of handling medical emergencies. You both need to discuss a guideline that includescontacting each other, and following the protocols of emergency or essential care for your child and/or each other.
  •  Discuss with your child that they must alert either of you if they feel ill and not wait to see the other parent.

Co-parenting after lockdown

Once the all clear has been given by government officials you may resume your co-parenting plan terms with the agreements you both made during this lockdown. This is not a time to be keeping score but to embrace a mature and collaborative approach to this pandemic.

Remember: Your Children Come First!

In the mean time you both have to understand that these circumstances were never expected. Therefore, you need be reasonable and co-operate when making decisions for what is best for all of you.  The underlying guideline in making your decisions will be to do what is in the best interest of your children and everyone’s health safety.

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