By Emmanuel Olawale, Esq.
For most parents this period is a very trying and tasking period because schools and daycares are closed as a result of the pandemic. In some states, there is a Stay Home Order confining everyone to their homes except for providers of essential services such as health care workers, garbage truck operators, law enforcement, law offices, grocery store operators etc.
Under normal circumstances, parents plan for holidays and school breaks, but the shutdown brought about by the corona virus pandemic is not normal and no parent planned for this emergency school break.
Every parent should understand that they are not the only one experiencing the stress of the shutdown, that their children are also experiencing stress. They miss their friends from school, teachers, daily routines and after school programs. So, the best thing any parent could do for their children during this period is to give them the gift of time, attention and understanding. It is counterproductive to take the stress out on the children because they have no control over the current situation just as the parents.
Here are practical things to do to make life easier for parents and children.
If you are in a situation where you co-parent or have a shared parenting plan with another person whom you don’t live with. In order to alleviate the stress on everybody, think of what is in the best interest of the children.
- Don’t deny the non-residential or non-custodial parent their parental time or visitation rights.
Just because the courts are currently closed, does not mean that whatever court order you have in regards to visitation and parental rights are suspended. They are still in effect and must be respected, unless it is impracticable to honor the court ordered plan, especially in situations where the plan in place is long distance parenting plan because it is impracticable for children or adult to board flights now to visit anyone.
- Be Reasonable: This is the time to co-parent with reason and not focus on your ego, disagreements and issues. Make it easier for the children to transition from your home to the other parents. Discuss with the other parent and formulate plans on how to keep the children safe from corona virus by following the recommended directives.
- Be flexible: This is not a time to be rigid. Work out ways to make parenting easier for each other and make life better for the children. The shutdown has changed the schedules for so many people in unexpected ways, don’t add to each other’s stress by being rigid and uncompromising. In situations where exchange is not possible, make phone calls, video calls and other forms of communications available for the children to communicate with the other parent. You can draw up a consistent schedule in which the children and parent have specific time they can communicate with one another.
- Be Responsive: Don’t ignore reasonable communications from the other parent. Don’t ignore text messages, emails, phone calls and voicemails. It is not in the children’s best interest to ignore reasonable, non-toxic communications concerning the children during this stressful period.
- The shutdown has not suspended child support. If you are paying child support and you are currently out of work, let the other parent know your situation. Figure out other ways you can support your children such as going to the store to get groceries for the kids, ordering food to be delivered to the children and do other things for them make their lives easier and show that you care.
- If you are parents in a two-parent home situation, this is the time to help each other out if both of you are home either working from home, or not working. If you previously had a situation where only one parent takes care of the children while the other works, this is the time for the working parent to pitch in and help with caring for the children.
- Draw up a Schedule: When children are in school they follow a structure and schedule. This makes their days go smoothly as they have no idle time. You can duplicate the same thing at home so that they don’t get bored. Draw up a schedule for their homework and other activities as if they are in school and ensure that they follow the schedule
- Help them with their school work and engage them as they do other crafts and activities.
- Focus on the Issues: Don’t take out the stress on each other or on the children. You are not the problem. Corona virus and the quarantine are the problem. Focus on the issues and don’t blame yourselves for a situation you had no control over.
- Use this unexpected time off to show your children love. Make them feel safe during this time of universal uncertainty. They are scared as they don’t fully understand what is going on, give them the security of love and family to alleviate the stress of the pandemic and resultant shut down.
Emmanuel Olawale is the principal of The Olawale Law Firm. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 614-772-4177.