We are dealing with very trying times right now, and I am not just talking about trying to find toilet paper. The COVID-19 pandemic has created issues in almost every realm of life- health, economy, lifestyle, employment, etc. Co-Parenting is not immune from this crisis and many parents are left struggling to find answers in an already difficult situation. Like the virus itself, there is much that is unknown. There is no precedence for this kind of pandemic. While I do not claim to be an expert in co-parenting during a pandemic (and hope to never be), I have created a list of suggestions to help co-parents pull together and get through this as a team.
- Stick to the Plan – Many parenting plans revolve around children’s school schedule. School closures have made these plans unworkable. My advice is to stick to parenting plan, as much as possible. If your parenting plan includes a provision for what to do when there is no school, follow that plan. If your current parenting plan does not work with your child’s school changes or changes in your employment, work with your co-parent to try and come up with a solution that fits your child best. If your co-parent is unwilling to work with you, you may need to enlist friends and family to help, if possible. Remember that judges will not be happy if you withhold parenting time from another parent, so do your best to work within each other’s schedule and allow make-up time if needed.
- Become Co-Teachers – Many schools are beginning classes and homework online. This has added an extra burden on parents who may have difficult work schedules. (Aren’t we so thankful for teachers?) Take a minute to sit down or video conference with your co-parent to work out a plan of when your child is going to complete their school work. If possible, each parent should be informed of what is happening in their children’s school and what is expected of your student. If your co-parent refuses to communicate or help with school work, do your best to help your child with their work. Schools and teachers are still trying to figure this out and will understand if you aren’t perfect.
- Support your children – Many parents are dealing with employment cutbacks or layoffs. Hopefully, this is only temporary and most will be able to resume working once the quarantine has been lifted. However, child support still needs to be paid during this time. If you are obligated to pay support, you should do your best to fulfill your obligation, even if you can only pay a portion. If your employment situation has changed on a permanent basis, you may need to file for a modification of child support at some time in the future. For financial help, check your local school or church to see what financial resources are available.
- Worry about yourself – You may have a difference of opinion on what to do during the pandemic. Some parents don’t want their children to go out of the house, others may think it is fine for a child to play with a friend. You cannot control the rules at the other parent’s home. During your parenting time, do what you think is best for your child. Parents should be up to date on CDC recommendations and follow all government guidelines for their location.
- Communicate – Even though it may be difficult, reach out to your co-parent and see how they are doing. Talk about any changes that need to be made to accommodate work or school changes. Talk to your children. I have no doubt that children are feeling the stress of what is going on. Take time to talk to your child and validate their concerns. You may not have all the answers, but reassure them that you are there for them. Talk to your employer. If you or your co-parent are having difficulties due to loss of child care, try speaking with your employer to see what options are available. Lastly, take time to listen to your needs. It is ok to feel anxious and stressed right now. Learn productive ways to deal with your stress, take a nap, read a book or talk to a good friend.
In an ideal world, co-parents would seamlessly work together in the best interest of their child. However, it is evident that we are not living in an ideal world. The full effect of this pandemic is unknown. Do your best during this time to work with your co-parent. Try to be flexible and understanding. If you feel that court intervention is the only solution, I would be happy to help you through the court process. May the odds ever be in your favor during this time!
Brittany Skinner (480) 733-6800