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What should a parent do if a child returns exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms?

By | - June 15, 2020

Steve Benmor is a recognized divorce lawyer, family mediator, arbitrator, speaker, writer and educator. Mr. Benmor has worked as lead counsel in many divorce trials, held many leadership positions in the legal community and has been regularly interviewed on television, radio and in newspapers as an expert in Family Law.

Some parents divorce because they have different parenting styles or values. In some cases, one parent is strict, while the other parent is relaxed. Whatever the drivers were for them to divorce, the fact is that some parents have different approaches to caring for their children.

The Novel Coronavirus drew emphasis to this great divide between divorced parents. At different stages of the pandemic, parents have approached the subject of safety precautions (eg. using protective equipment and isolation) in different ways. Like with their typical parenting styles, there were those parents that became very strict, while others were more relaxed. However, this time, with the fear of contracting the deadly virus and the possibility of death, the discrepancy in parenting has led to debates, disagreements and even the withholding of children from the other parent.

Courts across Ontario have consistently ruled that the children must continue to be with each parent according to the pre-existing parenting plan – irrespective of a parent’s subjective fears. The judges have consistently maintained that the schedule should be followed and that each parent must follow all of the recommended safety precautions. In fact, many of the court rulings reproduced a very long list of safety precautions to ensure that each parent maintain a minimum standard of care with respect to prevention.

So what should a parent do if a child returns exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19?

The first thing not to do is blame the other parent. Not only will this cause distraction from the child’s need for proper care, but it will exacerbate the problem and pit one parent against the other. Rather than blame, a good approach would be to inform the other parent of the circumstances and what it is that is being done to care for the child.

Here is a list of tips:

1.       Objectively observe the child’s symptoms.

2.       Record any uncommon behaviour with respect to eating, drinking, sleeping, energy levels and bathroom use.

3.       Remain in communication with the child’s pediatrician, family doctor or Telehealth Ontario and follow their advice and directions with respect to testing and treatment.

4.       Continue to communicate this information (free from blame) to the other parent.

5.       If the pediatrician recommends that the child remain at home and not leave to return to the other parent, invite the other parent to speak directly with the pediatrician.

6.       Each parent must take good care of themselves, both physically and emotionally. During times of fear and anxiety, it is common for one’s immunity to drop which can increase the risk of health problems in the family.

7.       Be very aware of facial expressions, body language and communications with other people over the phone that the child may overhear. This can have a significant impact on the child’s emotional state. Instead display to the child confidence, optimism and, above all, affection. Assure the child that “this will pass”. 

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