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As we all continue to cope with schools being closed, businesses being closed, quarantine/shelter-in-place orders being issued, and generally, life as we know it fundamentally changing as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic, I have received numerous calls and e-mails about how time-sharing schedules and co-parenting works during this time. Divorced or separated parents must find ways to effectively co-parent and communicate in order to ensure that there is no added stress on their children during these unsure and scary times. Below are my five tips for co-parenting during the COVID-19 Pandemic:
- Be Respectful. We are all stressed out. Do not intentionally start fights or degrade the other parent. Do not use the pandemic as an excuse to withhold the children.
- Continuity. Schedules are important for both the parents and the children and help create a sense of calm in an ever-changing world. Continue to follow your normal time-sharing and exchange schedule as much as possible. If your exchange location is closed, discuss and agree to a new, safe location where the exchanges of the children can occur. Ensure that both parents are able to spend meaningful time with the children.
- Communicate on school. Ensure that both parents have access to the children’s virtual school and have access to the schedule and assignment list. Each parent should identify and discuss areas that the children are struggling with or need additional assistance with. Communicate on what assignments need to be completed and when. This is a new procedure for both you, as parents, and the children. Effective communication between the parents regarding the children’s schoolwork will help ease some of the stress and uncertainty for the children.
- Aim for consistency in both homes. Keep the children on the same schedule for mealtimes, bedtime, and wake-up times.
- Be flexible and communicate. Many work situations have changed and many schedules have changed. Be flexible around the children’s needs as well as the other parent’s unique situation. Keep the other parent informed of any potential situations where you or the children have come into contact with COVID-19. Remember neither of you has been through this before, but, by working together and keeping the best interest of the children in mind, your family will get through it.
Utilizing the above tips and engaging in effective co-parenting during these tenuous times will not only eliminate unnecessary stress for the parents but will also ease the stress the children are experiencing. Please also remember to follow all the instructions of our state and local government officials who are monitoring the situation daily. Stay safe and well!