For divorced or separated parents, custody matters are a source of conflict and anxiety. Add a global pandemic to the mix like COVID-19, and an already stressful situation can become more complicated and problematic. The following five tips offer some advice on surviving the co-parenting in the midst of a health crisis.
1-Maintain Communication and Transparency
Communicate with your co-parent and be cooperative with each other because everyone is dealing with COVID-19. In some situations one or both parents may be experiencing a major change to their work schedule that can impact the custody schedule. Consider expanded use of Skype, FaceTime, or other video chat options on a more regular basis with your co-parent to ensure both parents have frequent and continuing contact with the child.
2-Focus on Health and Safety
Comply with all CDC, local, and state guidelines and model good behavior for your children with handwashing, wiping down surfaces, and maintaining social distancing. Let your co-parent know about your child’s health, especially if they have been exposed to COVID-19. Both parents should be informed and part of the decision making process if there is any need to bring your child to the doctor. Even in the event that there is an emergency situation, your co-parent should still be contacted immediately. Have a co-parenting contingency plan in the event one parent, or someone residing in the household becomes infected with COVID-19.
It is important that you feel you and your co-parent are on the same page when it comes to the health and safety of your child. Work with your co-parent to implement plans and behaviors that keep your child safe and reduce the risk of exposure.
3-Comply with Court Orders and Custody Agreements
Your custody agreement or court order exists to prevent conflict and create stability for you and your children. Over the past few weeks, some jurisdictions have entered orders providing direction with custody agreements to address health and safety concerns associated with COVID-19.
It is understandable that circumstances may change during this pandemic that may cause a need to modify your custody agreement. If you and your co-parent agree to temporary changes to the parenting schedule, document them in writing by email so that there is no confusion about what those changes are to your normal custody schedule.
Do not use this pandemic to make unilateral decisions regarding your child or to violate the terms of your current agreement. This conduct will be unfavorable when it is addressed before the Court once your jurisdiction resumes all normal court proceedings.
4-Educate Yourself and Your Children
Both parents should be educated about COVID-19 and educate their children. Prevent the spread of COVID-19 by learning about it from reliable sources. Being informed will allow you both to be more prepared.
Be honest about the seriousness of the pandemic, but maintain a calm attitude and reassure your children that things will return to normal in time. Avoid exposing your children to media coverage intended for adults. But, at the same time, encourage your children to ask questions and express any of their concerns. The concerns that your children bring to you should be shared with your co-parent so that both parties can provide reassurance, information, and comfort.
5-Mitigate Stress and Mental Health Concerns
Stress associated with fear and anxiety about the pandemic can cause separate potential health problems in both adults and children. Be aware of your physical and mental health and that of your children. If you observe your child displaying an indicator of stress, inform your co-parent of these observations and discuss coping mechanisms that can be used in both homes.
Not all children respond to stress the same way. Children can react in part, based on what they observe from the adults around them. Parents who deal with COVID-19 calmly and confidently provide the best support for their children. Be a role model for your child by getting plenty of sleep, exercise, and maintaining a well-balanced diet.
Try to provide regular routines for your child and coordinate these schedules with your co-parent. Create a schedule for learning activities and fun activities. The routine will provide stability for your child in both homes.