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Co-parenting in Year Two of the Pandemic

It’s hard to believe we’re moving into year two of frustrating pandemic-related restrictions. It’s been a struggle to say the least. Especially when we think about all of the impacts these restrictions have placed upon our children. Young toddlers in formative development stages have missed out on important social activities and interactions. Older teenagers have had many “normal” rites of passage postponed or canceled, such as graduation or attending post-secondary schools in the traditional university setting. Grandparents are missing their grandchildren and vice versa. COVID-19 has taken so much from our children. But families can work to ensure one thing remains constant for them and that is letting children know they come first, especially when it comes to co-parenting.

“Going through separation and divorce is tough as it is,” says Micheline Maes, divorce mediator and owner of Maes Divorce Consulting. “Now with the pandemic measures in place, parents have to be extra strong and aware about how their children are doing mentally.”

Micheline cannot stress enough the importance of supporting children in families experiencing separation or divorce, compounded by the stresses of the pandemic. Unfortunately, she has personally learned of two teenagers in this situation attempting suicide, while daily news across the country confirms this heartbreaking trend.

“This is no easy task because parents themselves are not doing all that great either,” she says. “I applaud those parents who despite their hurt, anger and differences still manage to put their childrens’ best interest first, even if the solution is not what they wanted or anticipated.”

With that in mind, here are few helpful reminders co-parents can look to when dealing with separation and the pandemic becomes overwhelming.


Follow court orders

First and foremost, follow any court orders first, and then Alberta Health Services’ recommendations next when it comes to parenting arrangements. When times are stressful and hurt bubbles to the service, your court order is there to serve as your guide and bring clarity to any confusion. Yes, these are strange times and we’re all dealing as best we can but using isolation as a barrier to the other parent seeing their child is not acceptable and the courts will not look upon this kindly. Court orders and custody agreements can actually help us keep some things constant for our children, as well as reduce disagreements and disruptions that only hurt them in the end.


Find solutions that keep the childrens’ best interests front of mind

When life changes so much and so fast, there’s no denying we may have to find creative ways to adapt. Our normal vacation or leisure plans for our time with our children have likely been canceled for now, and that’s tough. On the other end of the scale, parents’ working lives have changed. Some of us are working from home, have reduced hours, or may be working extra hours as essential workers.

While the court order and visitation plan come first, when one parent has to miss time because of COVID-19 restrictions, families might plan make-up time. The family courts do expect both parents to be reasonably accommodating; failure to do so could raise concerns in filings down the road. Parents can also work to create a mutual plan and steps to take should any family members be exposed to the virus. Honest and transparent communication is key during these difficult times.

When all these changes affect our children, parents can get creative and flip adversity into opportunities to work to together and show their children they are supported and come first. For instance, digital media can be a powerful tool. Children and parents can still experience face-to-face closeness through apps such as FaceTime or Kids Messenger. Or, maybe they plan a watch party online to enjoy to same movie or read the same book and then catch up about it when can finally reconnect.


Divorce mediation can help families cope successfully

We can only imagine the ways children growing up during this pandemic will remember this time. Certainly, they will recall missing out on activities and time with friends and extended family. What we don’t want is for those memories to also be clouded by fighting, stress, and disrupted schedules between their co-parents. When parents keep this picture in mind, they may be able to work together to keep life as stress-free as possible for their children. Looking back, these children will be left with memories of their parents doing all they could to put them first.

There are several ways divorce mediation can support and guide co-parents to find solutions to change and stress within the family dynamic exacerbated by this pandemic. For example, parents may seek to adjust their visitation plans to cope with differing work conditions. Should any changes to their work affect their budgets and increase economic stress, divorce mediators can help them come up with temporary solutions that are fair to both sides when it comes to income and support. It’s not easy, we understand. Co-parenting and sharing responsibility can be overwhelming to say the least, especially when we’re hurt and stressed. At Maes Divorce Consulting, we’re here to support and guide your family through. Click here to learn more.

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