Listen: Happy Families' Dr Justin Coulson on separated parenting during the Covid-19 pandemic
Co-parenting has some unique challenges, but in lockdown there are additional issues to negotiate that can be achieved by focusing on solutions.
On his Happy Families blog, Dr Justin Coulson says he’s been receiving a lot of questions from separated parents about parenting during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Justin says there are many areas for potential conflict.
“Some of them are fairly basic things around logistics — ‘Is it OK for us to take our children somewhere when they’re supposed to be at home with us, but we’ve got these custody arrangements?’,” he said.
“Other parents are dealing with larger issues, like ‘We’ve got a former partner living in a different house and working in an industry where they’re being exposed to people, all day every day, whereas we’re trying to do lockdown at our house and we don’t want to share our children around right now. We’re trying to keep them in isolation and how do we work that out?’
And then there’s a big issue that I’ve come across, which is that sometimes an ex-partner simply doesn’t care what the regulations are, lets the kids do whatever they want and is not providing any kind of pandemic support to the parent who’s trying to do ‘the right thing’. It’s really the whole gamut. It’s a tricky time.”
Justin says families that are spread over two homes, or where two parents are co-parenting the same child, should consider themselves to be one household. All the child’s homes should be considered part of your extended household. Keeping the same rhythm and routine will help kids feel safe and secure at what is an otherwise stressful time. Families should follow court orders, so long as there is also appropriate following of the coronavirus regulations. Parents with good reasons for concern may need to go back to the family court.
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Dr Justin also warns that during the lockdown there have been increases in cyber bullying and children with unexplained bone breakages.
“There’s data that shows depression, sadness and loneliness are increasing for some kids who are particularly vulnerable and who rely on school to be a safe place,” he said. “So we want to make sure that we’re putting our children first and helping them feel safe and protected.
“If anything I would say, be open and flexible. Treat your ex- like you would a client at work. It’s important that we maintain appropriate relationships. Stay open. Stay flexible. Focus on solutions. And maybe lower expectations across the board. Just do your best and recognise that your ex- is frankly probably doing their best as well.”
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