COVID-19 is a dread disease. Nobody — not Governor Northam, not your child’s teachers, not your family law attorney — wants you to catch this illness or worse, spread it to your own children. Here are some practical and possible ways to practice social distancing while still enjoying parenting time with your kids.

Children Are Susceptible

Let’s start by dispelling a horrendous myth: children can catch COVID-19, and can die from it. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in a study from February 12 to April 2 of this year, 2,572 children caught COVID-19, and three died from it.

Also true: children are likely not to show the same symptoms (fever, cough, or shortness of breath) as adults. While the total number of pediatric cases is saddening, it is also astonishingly small — only 1.7 percent of American cases in the study were among children.

As a responsible Virginia Dad, you must be especially alert and careful with your children. Avoid needless exposure to Coronavirus, and practice good hygiene.

Social Distancing Rules

You may need to modify your parenting time and child visitation if you, your children, or the children’s mother fits one of these profiles:

  • You or the mother are in a high-risk, essential service and are frequently exposed to COVID-19 (hospital worker, EMT, jail or prison guard)
  • You or the child’s mother show adult symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath, trouble breathing, persistent chest pain or pressure, new confusion or not able to wake up, bluish lips or face)
  • You, your children, or the children’s mother have compromised immune systems or have been told by medical professionals of a particular risk of contracting COVID-19

Social distancing rules are in place to protect all Virginians. Encourage your ex to be honest about her circle of contacts, and be honest with her about yours.

While Virginia’s courts are closed and cannot provide legal remedies in child visitation disputes at this time, you and the children’s mother can work out practical solutions to your concerns. If nothing else, virtual parenting time through Zoom, Microsoft Team, FaceTime or other products can bring you together.

Your Rights to Parenting Time

Here’s another myth we need to puncture: your right to see your kids is superseded by Governor Northam’s emergency orders. That is exactly wrong. The actual order provides three important reasons to be on the move in Virginia:

  1. Taking care of other individuals, animals, or visiting the home of a family member; 
  2. Traveling required by court order or to facilitate child custody, visitation, or child care; 
  3. Engaging in outdoor activity, including exercise, provided individuals comply with social distancing requirements; …

You have a legal right to enjoy parenting time with your children, taking them somewhere outdoors for exercise, and taking them between your house and their mother’s home.

You and their mother need to communicate clearly that your circle of contacts stay limited to your two households, so you can follow guidelines on social distancing. But does that mean you all just stare at four walls during every visitation?

Nah! Let’s have some fun!

What Can I Do With Them?

If your children are very little, educators have a plethora of activities to encourage handwashing. Experts at BrainPop offer up an octet of outstanding activities to help children from Kindergarten through third grade understand the concept of germs, transmission of infection, and proper handwashing technique.

Whatever age your children, every visit should begin, end, and be punctuated by handwashing. You can make it fun, but you must make them do it.

Governor Northam’s emergency order permits outdoor activities, and not coincidentally, all Virginia state parks are open for day use. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation provides guidelines for using its facilities, but you can still take your tykes to trek the trails.

Beaches may be closed for swimming, but you can exercise on them and fish from them. Keep your gathering small, keep everyone six feet apart (that includes on trails — make noise and step off the trail to let others pass), and use hand sanitizer throughout your visit.

Exercise in the neighborhood and around the house means bicycles, backyard games, and invented family fun. Stuck indoors? Play hide and seek, Twister, or tabletop Olympic Games.

Your more cerebral and artistic children may enjoy virtual museum visits, designing and building engineering marvels, or creating artistry from recyclable materials.

Avoid making parenting time feel like school, but do encourage them to do more than watch TV and text their absent friends. Always good: telling family tales, spinning ghost stories, and recalling family vacations.

In times of crisis and times of calm, The Firm For Men stands ready to help Virginia’s men navigate the family law maze. Contact us online today, or telephone our offices at (757) 383-9204.