Due to Covid-19, we are living, and parenting, in unprecedented times. For separated parents this new change has been thrust upon us without being able to discuss shared care arrangements with the other parent. It might be that you, as parents, have been home schooling your children for many years anyway, but for many this is unchartered territory. Unless you are a key worker and still able to send your children to school during the lockdown, the chances are you have become an instant home schooler.
How do I implement the same routine for the children at the other parent’s house?
It is important to remember that despite the urge to set out a clear timetable for the children each day, this might not be practical, depending on the ages and needs of your children and also whether you or the other parent needs to work from home.
If you take coronavirus out of the situation for a moment, when you co-parent you are reliant, to a certain degree, on flexibility and trust in the other parent. Each parent has their own style of parenting and while you may not agree on everything regarding the children, the ability for your children to experience secure and stable upbringings across two homes is possible.
Home schooling: the Parenting Plan
For co-parents, one handy and almost essential tool is a “Parenting Plan”. In essence, it is a written document that records the day to day and practical arrangements of parenting. Also, if you are looking to make an application to the family court for a Child Arrangements Order (Section 8 Children Act 1989), in the future, the court will expect you to have looked at a parenting plan.
The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) which represents children in family court matters in England, describes the benefits of making a Parenting Plan below:
- it will help everyone involved know what is expected of them
- it acts as a valuable reference to go back to
- it sets out practical decisions about the children, such as living arrangements, education and health care.
You can see more detail here https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/divorce-and-separation/parenting-plan/
How can I include home schooling in a Parenting Plan?
There is a section dedicated to “education” in each parenting plan, so, if you are looking to create a plan for the first time or even if you already have a plan, a good talking point would be home schooling and how you can work together to achieve this. You might find that one parent really likes the idea of planning the day around available resources online, where a number of celebrities are producing content designed to fall in line with the national curriculum. On the other hand, it might be that the other parent is really hands-on and wants to use this time to teach the children practical skills such as woodwork, gardening, baking, and more.
How will I know what the other parent is planning?
For many years now family law practitioners have been encouraging the use of a “communication book” with the idea being that one parent records useful information about their time and activities with the children, and the book is then passed to the other parent, on handover. One way this could be adapted in the current climate is to send electronic updates or set up a designated “email” just for communication about child arrangements. You could even develop your own form of home work diaries and there are plenty of apps out there that could help you stay connected as a family.
In the end, what's important is communication - your children will benefit more than ever in this challenging situation if both parents talk to one another and agree a way forward.
If you are affected by any of the issues outlined here, please do get in touch today. We are here to help.