So, COVID-19 is now a pandemic. That means discouraging travel and travel restrictions, among other things. This has long distance parents asking “what about my visitation?”. Coronavirus and travel has specific implications to long distance parents and their kids.
Although I can’t tell you what to do in your particular situation, here are some things to consider, as a long distance parent, in light of coronavirus and travel.
Coronavirus and Travel : The Basics
There are some very basic guidelines everyone needs to follow, healthy or not :
- Wash your hands frequently and well
- Use hand sanitizer between hand washing or when hand washing is not possible
- Avoid unnecessary crowded social situations
- Stay at home if you’re sick
- Cover your cough and sneezes properly
- Don’t touch your face without washing your hands
Unnecessary travel, especially using crowded means of transportation should be avoided. However, that leaves long distance parenting time in kind of a gray area.
Coronavirus and Travel … and Visitation
Many long distance parents and their kids often use airline travel to facilitate visitation. Parenting time, while not life threatening if it doesn’t happen, is critical to the well being of the child and their relationship with their parent. What happens in a child’s relationship with their parent can shape their lives for years to come.
If you visit with your child frequently, it might not have a terrible impact to skip or catch up on visitation during a safer time. However, some long distance parents may only get time with their child for extended periods a few or even one time a year. In that case, missing scheduled visitation could have a bigger impact on the child/parent relationship.
Use your best judgement on travelling during this time, given your unique circumstances, and consider some of the following points and ideas.
How Capable Are your Kids?
Although kids may be likely to weather Coronavirus with a more positive outcome, it’s possible that they could be carrying it unknowingly and spread it around. Kids need to follow the common sense guidelines for not spreading Coronavirus.
If your kids are too young to be able to follow the basics without a parent around, having them travel without a parent is not safe. They might not catch it or come through an infection ok – but they could also unknowingly spread it to others while in transit. Flying with them to drop them off could be an option. Transporting them by car instead of mass transit might also be an option.
Where are you/they Traveling From/To?
If your long distance parenting arrangement is international, the conditions in the countries they are travelling to or from could have different conditions. It’s also possible for travel bans to happen to or from anywhere.
There is some information on coronavirus and travel on the CDC website. The World Health Organization has shared some information on coronavirus and travel as well. Both have information related to travelling to and from particular countries.
Research the situation in both countries and asses the risk before sending them on their own to the other parent. Consider coming up with contingency plans ahead of time. What if there is a return travel ban? Will the parent they are staying with be able to keep them for the duration?
At Risk People In Their Family
Some people, like people with immune system issues, underlying health conditions, or older people are susceptible to complications and even death from Coronavirus. Healthy people can carry and have COVID-19 without even knowing it.
If your child unknowingly carries coronavirus to a family member, are there any family members who would be put at risk? If so, it could be worth considering delaying visitation, or changing visitation plans to be only the child and the healthy parent, away from the home where the vulnerable person is.
Your Co-Parenting Relationship
This might be one of those times you need to fall back on navigating your co-parenting relationship to alternative make arrangements. Try talking to your co-parent about your concerns. Remember your healthy co-parenting communication skills. In your conversation :
- Focus on facts rather than feelings. Everyone is afraid to some degree. Everyone also wants to see their kids. If you focus on facts, you are more able to find a viable solution.
- Offer solutions, not just problems.
- Remember empathy : what would you want if you were in the other parent’s situation?
And maybe most of all, be open to compromise and suggest alternatives. Consider all of the possible ways to get the children and the other parent enough time together. These might include :
- Travel by car rather than plane. Meet halfway if it’s a long drive.
- Parent comes to visit with child and child stays in place.
- Delay visitation or make it up on a holiday or during time the other parent wouldn’t normally get.
- Parent travels to child and back with child both ways. Or maybe one parent does it one way and the other parent does it the other way.
- Other family members travel in place of parents, where parents are not able.
- If visitation just is not feasible, consider replacing it with extended, more focused virtual visitation by doing things like visiting museums online together or watching symphony shows online together. Look for other options from companies and organizations that are opting for virtual accessibility during the pandemic.
The goal is always for kids and parents to spend time together. At the end of the day, coronavirus and travel restrictions don’t have to mean visitation gets missed. However, it might mean some careful planning, doing things differently and thoughtful communication between co-parents.