Just last week, the British Columbia government announced its intention to have schools and childcare facilities partially re-open by June. Since March 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the shutdown of schools and childcare facilities with some minor exceptions. Each situation is unique and challenging in its’ own way but many parents are struggling as they have been asked to both continue to work in their full time capacity, care for their children and support their children’s learning at home on a daily basis. Needless to say, and speaking from personal experience, this has been extremely difficult. However, this proposed return has left many parents with questions on how to navigate this discussion with the other parent.
Like all major decisions, it is important to consult with the other parent regarding whether your children should go back to school or daycare. Both of you will have to assess the risk and possibility of your children being exposed to COVID-19, and how it would affect both households. It may require being flexible and making alternations to the parenting plan.
Here is a suggestion of some questions each parent could answer about their own situation (together with some example answers) and exchange to better understand and better cooperate regarding a return to daycare or school:
1 - I most appreciate that during this period you have supported the children and me in the following way:
For example – you have been flexible with parenting time, or you have assisted with the majority of the home schooling.
2 - The daycare/school has provided the following information about a return to instruction/care:
*fill in the details directly from the care provider or the school
3 - My concerns for the child(ren) are:
For example: their mental health or their physical health
4 - My concerns for us as parents are:
For example: our mental health, our employment
5 - My concerns for other individuals that we may impact are:
For example: grandparents or people living in the home
6 - The most important consideration for me is:
For example: the children’s mental health
7 - I am most able to be flexible with respect to:
For example: my employment
8 - My suggested solutions are:
*Add at least two possibilities
9 - If we can’t agree I suggest that we try the following:
For example: a discussion or a mediation
If you and the other parent do decide to have your children attend in-class instruction and/or childcare facilities, you should implement safety guidelines in both households so that both parents can have a peace of mind and the children can experience some consistency when transitioning during parenting times. Setting out expectations now can alleviate conflict in the future.
As the province continues to work out the details of re-opening schools and childcare facilities, parents should take this time to consider all the factors so that they can make an informed decision as to whether your children should return to school. As BC Premier Hogan stated, “school is a place of joy for many people…but we want to make sure that’s done safely.”