Virtual Parenting Time During An Emergency

We are facing a time like no other with the Coronavirus looming over us. I have received many calls recently asking me if the COVID-19 outbreak will have any effect on their time-sharing with their children.  From a legal perspective most time-sharing schedules don’t consider what might happen during a pandemic; who was expecting this?! Therefore, the regular schedule usually continues unless there is an emergency.

Girl with cat sharing virtually communicating with adult via computer.

With the uncertainty of the Coronavirus there is a possibility that we may all be home bound at some point for potentially multiple days and unable to travel on roadways which could limit transferring of children to accommodate time-sharing schedules. 

In the event that one parent is unable to physically be with their children during this time there are some very helpful tools that can be used to support continuing, meaningful and ongoing contact between the child and absent parent.  An example would be using video conferencing like Facetime to speak, see and interact with the children daily.

Here are a few tips for positive VPT (virtual parenting time):

  • The physically present parent should not interfere with the communication between the child and the parent who is exercising the VPT.
  • There should be an agreed upon schedule as it relates to both date and time of VPT. For any extended period, I recommend a calendar be created and printed letting the child know when the communications will be.
  • Both parents must fully support and encourage the VPT with the child.
  • Plan the VPT around shared activities such as dinner or bedtime routines. Consider reading a bedtime story or sharing breakfast via Facetime or Zoom!
  • Lots of children love playing games on the internet.  Find an age appropriate game to play!

As adults we are experiencing stress around the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Our children feel the stress as well.  Even if they are not fully old enough to understand the impact this could have on them, they know something has changed.  It is important that regardless of the reason a parent is temporarily unavailable for physical time-sharing, that they maintain regular contact with the parent.