When couples separate or divorce and decide to co-parent, it is already a complicated and difficult set-up in itself. With the coming of the pandemic and its restrictions, the complications and difficulties multiplied. Many daycare centers and schools closed, and children had to remain at home. In such cases, home means staying with either parent at certain periods. If the parent is working from home, it becomes almost impossible to juggle work with childcare and supervision of distance learning.
Results from Pew studies in March and October 2020 show that the difficulties increased with time. In March, 38 percent of parents stated that it was difficult to manage childcare responsibilities while working from home. This increased to more than half of respondents or 52 percent in October. Parents with children younger than 12 years old experienced more difficulties.
Work is not the only issue that co-parents must face during the pandemic. There is also the issue of protecting the health of the child, both physical and emotional.
Keep Calm and Communicate
The Cleveland Clinic cites advice from pediatric psychologist Kathryn Jones, Ph.D., who states that co-parents must stay calm while keeping communication lines open. This is the best way for them to be able to discuss what is best for the child.
Never use the child as a messenger for negative communication, and never badmouth your ex to your child. Also, never put the child in a position where he or she must choose between the two of you. This is stressful and emotionally damaging to a child. Always be civil to each other in front of your child and keep arguments to times when you are alone.
If there is too much animosity, however, and direct communication between exes is not possible, then it is best to hire the services of family law attorneys who can provide mediation. All discussions can then go through these professionals qualified to negotiate settlements.
Mediation is always the better option than taking the issue to family court. For one thing, court cases are more costly. Also, the pandemic has caused limits in court schedules, and your case may just get several postponements.
Agree on Pandemic Precautions
Both parents must make agreements on the COVID-19 precautionary measures that will protect the child. It is best if both parents and other adults in both households are fully vaccinated. Both parents must also agree not to expose the child to unvaccinated adults who do not wear masks and do not observe physical distancing.
Train the child to comply with all these measures as well. Talk to the child seriously, but give the utmost reassurance that all will be well if precautions are strictly followed. The child must understand that both parents are doing everything for his or her safety.
Co-parents must be transparent with each other on any exposure that they or any members of their household had to the virus. If the child has any health issues while in the custody of one parent, always keep the other parent updated. This must include any observations about changes in the child’s behavior that could indicate difficulties in adjusting emotionally and psychologically to the current situation. If needed, co-parents must arrange for a pediatric therapist to have virtual sessions with them.
This also covers child support arrangements. For instance, discuss any necessary changes if the parent giving child support loses a job or gets a pay cut. Co-parents must also explore the child benefits offered by the government and ensure that these go to the child’s needs. For instance, according to CBS News, the distribution of the enhanced federal Child Tax Credits cash payments started on July 15. This is for low-to-moderate income families and will last until next year. The monthly payout will be deposited to the bank account of the parent who has the child as a tax dependent.
Be Flexible in Arrangements
Co-parents must set aside their conflict if they need to adjust for the sake of the child. For instance, the court-mandated schedule of child custody must be strictly followed. However, if one household has a COVID-19 case or has had exposure to it, for instance, the missed visit from the child can be made up for by a longer visit when all is safe.
A change in schedule can also be agreed upon regarding distance learning supervision. If one parent has a more flexible work arrangement that allows time to supervise the child’s online schooling, then the co-parents can decide to have the child with that parent during those hours.
Everyone is having difficulty during the pandemic. The least that co-parents can do is to always put the child’s welfare above their own. That way, they can ensure that their child feels loved and well taken care of.