Q&A — Parenting

Please see COVID-19 updates – children for more help.
The date of the most recent update on a subject is shown in [square brackets].  

It’s normal to be concerned about how a return to school might affect your family’s health. But experts agree that the risk is low and children should go back to school if possible.

Understand the current information

Public health experts, including the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), say the following:

  • Children are at low risk of catching and spreading the virus.
  • Schools are important places for children to learn and connect with others. It’s good for their mental and emotional health to be together with their friends, peers, and teachers.

The BC Government’s detailed Back to School Plan focuses on keeping everyone safe. Schools can operate safely if everyone follows public health principles, such as:

  • Staying home when sick
  • Staying a safe physical distance apart from others
  • Minimizing physical contact
  • Washing hands and wearing a mask
  • Frequent cleaning and disinfecting

Each school district also has a plan that addresses the specific needs of its community. Read your district’s plan, and discuss the options (including online and distributed learning and home schooling) with your child and the other parent.

If you still have concerns, discuss them with your child’s school.

Get help from a mediator

If you and the other parent still don’t agree about your child going back to school, consider working with a mediator. A mediator is a neutral third party who can help you resolve your conflict.

MediateBC’s Quarantine Conflict Resolution Service helps parents resolve many kinds of conflicts, including:

  • Deciding if or how children go back to school, sports, or other activities
  • Parent–teen disagreements about going back to school
  • Child care plans
  • Work-from-home challenges
  • Adapting parenting time and contact plans

Mediation is faster, less expensive, and less stressful for you and your children than going to court. Courts expect parents to try to work things out before applying to the court for a decision.

If you’re not able to reach an agreement, you’ll need to make a court application and a judge will have to decide. The court will look at a variety of factors, all of which look at the best interests of the child.

If the risks of returning to school outweigh the benefits, the child may need to learn online from home. But this will be determined case by case and depend on each family’s unique situation. Parents should be practical and use common sense when making risk-related decisions. A child may receive significant benefit from interacting with their peers, but the courts consider the child’s health and safety as top priority.

A pandemic generally doesn’t prevent parents from following a parenting order or agreement. You must follow parenting court orders or agreements unless it would increase the risk of COVID-19 for the child, their parents, other household members, or the community. 

See Parenting during COVID-19 for more information. 

At this stage of the pandemic, the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) has said in-person visits are permitted in these situations:

  • If in-person visits happened before March 26, 2020, you can continue them as long as you follow public health principles to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  
  • If in-person visits happened after March 26, 2020, you can continue them through regular case planning instead of by exception. These visits may increase depending on circumstances.

Social workers and the ministry have to review whether in-person visits are possible in some situations, See the MCFD bulletin and companion document for more details.

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Page last updated: Friday, September 11, 2020, 11:15 hrs

Wellness

The COVID-19 pandemic affects every aspect of life. Things are difficult and stressful for everyone, but it's important to remember that this situation is temporary, and that life will become more normal in time.