How To Share Child Custody During Covid
Much of “normal life” is on pause right now due to COVID-19, but what cannot be put on pause is co-parenting. Custody orders are still valid during this crisis, but child custody coronavirus concerns might have you wondering if it is safe for your child to follow the regular custody schedule.
Frequently Asked Questions About Co-Parenting During COVID-19
As a child psychologist, I’ve heard the following questions more frequently from my clients over the past several weeks:
- Will my child be safe going from house to house?
- How can I ensure that my child’s exposure to COVID-19 will be minimized at the co-parent’s house?
- Will my child be able to keep up with their online academic responsibilities at their other parent’s house?
- Will my child be spending their downtime on worthwhile activities or useless ones like video games, YouTube and social media?
Concerns about safety, use of time, and academics are important topics to consider when sharing parenting responsibilities with a co-parent. The difficult question is, how do you get on the same page? Communication is key when coordinating around child custody coronavirus concerns. As a divorced parent myself, I know that sometimes communication with the co-parent can be tricky.
Having the Tough Conversations with Your Co-Parent During COVID-19
My kids are grown up now – they are 22 and 19. I know from first-hand experience that going through the effort of having these difficult conversations is worth it in the long run. I’ve given this same advice to many of my private practice clients over the past several weeks.
Many of my clients have been able to report back to me that while they felt uncomfortable having the conversation with their co-parent, they were all glad that they went through the effort. Eventually, everyone was able to either get on the same page with their co-parent, or create a compromise that pleased everyone.
Wanting to communicate is never a bad thing. Unfortunately, communicating in a way that is condescending, close-minded, and/or overly emotional (i.e. yelling, crying, refusing to listen, etc.) can derail your communication efforts. Therefore, try as best as you can to keep your communication with your co-parent upbeat and positive. Most importantly, be ready to compromise.
If the thought of having a phone or face-to-face conversation with your co-parent triggers extreme anxiety or panic, putting your concerns in an email can also work. I’ve created a free email template to assist with communicating with your co-parent (see below) that you can use if you decide to go with this route, but know that sending an email to your co-parent has both pros and cons.
While sending an email allows you to clearly communicate your ideas, your co-parent might take a while to get back to you, or not get back to you at all.
You know your situation the best, so do what’s right for you.
Shared Custody Coronavirus Topics to Discuss
When talking to or emailing your co-parent, my recommendation is that you should cover the following 4 topics:
1. Agreeing on Safety Precautions
Share your thoughts on how strict you want to be when allowing your child to leave the house, and get a good idea of your co-parent’s comfort level with this. Share what you have been doing to limit exposure (i.e. hand washing as soon as you get home from shopping, wiping down counters with Clorox wipes, etc.) Also communicate whether or not you want your child to see extended family members or friends from school.
Some families will be super strict when it comes to safety and limiting exposure to COVID-19 while others will be more lenient. When asked by my private practice clients about what to do when safety levels are different between co-parents, my advice is to respect the wishes of the parent who is more strict with safety, if you can.
2. Time Management
It’s my experience that kids and teens will spend their time on video games, YouTube, and social media if left to their own devices. If you have an opinion that these activities should be limited during quarantine, then it’s OK to share your ideas with your co-parent. You should, however, be prepared that your co-parent won’t necessarily manage your child’s time like you would in your own home. If you would like your child to balance their time on worthwhile activities (such as reading, board games with family members, or exercise) with these downtime activities, then speak up with your ideas, but don’t expect for your co-parent to follow this suggestion to the letter.
3. Staying Compliant with Online Academics
I live and practice child psychology in California, and all of the schools in my state are closed for the rest of the school year. This means that all my child and teen clients are finishing their academic year through different modes of online learning.
I’ve found that some schools want their students to be logged on to Zoom classrooms at 8:00 in the morning, while others simply assign worksheets on Mondays and the students turn them in through Google Classroom on Fridays. Whatever your child’s online education responsibilities might be, you need to ensure that your co-parent understands what your child needs to do to stay compliant with their schoolwork.
4. Changes to the Custody Schedule
The stay-at-home order has thrown everyone for a loop – affecting our work schedules and responsibilities. If you would like to propose changes to your child’s custody schedule because your work situation has changed, use this opportunity to share these ideas with your co-parent.
Whether or not your relationship with your co-parent is an easy one or difficult one, new child custody coronavirus topics will make communication necessary. As most kids will not be going back to school until they start their new grade in the Fall, it benefits all co-parents to talk openly and frankly about how to proceed with custody issues over the next several months.
Co-Parenting Works Better with Communication
I hope that this post provides some guidance on how to have this conversation with your co-parent. For some additional guidance, you can download the email template to assist you in clearly communicating everything that you want to say to your co-parent.
The resources presented on the Modern Parenting Solutions website are not intended to replace therapy – they are for reference and educational purposes only. As every family is individual and unique in their strengths and weaknesses, the resources and advice supplied on this website are general in nature and should never replace any medical or psychological services that you may be currently engaged in. Please contact a mental health professional if you have any questions.
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