Co-Parenting in a COVID-19 World
Co-parenting can be challenging in normal times. During this pandemic co-parents must work together in order to meet today’s unique challenges. Today, I’d like to discuss what you and your co-parent should be thinking about and how you might tackle some of these new difficulties.
First and foremost, there are few 100% right answers. The coronavirus is very contagious, including when patients show no outward signs of illness. This means there’s no way to 100% guarantee safety… But that’s no excuse to not do everything you can to maintain the safety of your child or children.
Let’s go over some basic steps you can always take to keep safe. Think of these as those “few 100% right answers”.
- Social Distancing – Remain at least six feet apart from those you don’t live with. This is especially important in both indoor and outdoor public places. Talk with your child or children to set expectations as soon as possible, especially as stay-at-home orders are being lifted.
- Hand Washing – Washing your hands is one of the best ways to stave off COVID-19. Encourage your child or children to wash their hands often, especially before they eat or after they’ve been outside.
- Wear a Face Covering – When around people who aren’t in your immediate living situation, wear a mask. A cloth face covering, or a surgical mask should be worn by both you and your children in public spaces and in buildings. Generally, masks aren’t to be worn by children aged two and under. For those aged three and up, always ask if their mask is comfortable and help them make sure it covers both their nose and mouth.
Social distancing, hand washing and wearing a face covering should be non-negotiable. Both the parents and their children must work together to prevent COVID-19 transmission. Of course, we can’t stay inside for a year to wait for a possible vaccine. Both parents must work together to outline acceptable and reasonable risks they must take in order to live their daily lives. Let’s discuss a few ways we can manage transmission risk beyond the three mandatory measures I’ve listed above…
- Limit Your Social Circle – This can be more difficult for those who can’t socially distance themselves at work, but not impossible. Keeping your social circle limited and only seeing friends and non-immediate family outdoors will help prevent possible transmission. Encourage your children or child to limit visits to their friends. Parents who are first responders and essential workers may need to create additional safety precautions due to the risk inherent in their jobs and possible virus exposure to their families. Remember – Even though you may know some people well, they may have no idea they have the virus. Both parents owe themselves and their children a safe home.
- Although many of us feel the need to protest during this period of social unrest regarding race relations in this country, please do so responsibly. Consider taking a COVID-19 test if you are concerned that you or a loved one may have been exposed to the virus.
- Essential Travel – You and your child or children should only travel when necessary… But as co-parents, you will want to do your best to honor previous co-parenting arrangements. Discuss what constitutes essential travel with your co-parent and hold each other to agreed travel restrictions. Vacations, especially those that require air travel and staying in unfamiliar buildings, will put you and your children at considerable risk.
- Day camps and overnight camps– As various states allow for such activities, there must be agreement between co-parents as to whether such activities are safe and permissible;
- Daycare and babysitting– Many co-parents will no longer have the possibility of working from home. Co-parents must discuss what child care arrangements are safe and whether the other co-parent can assume additional child care responsibilities during this transitional period.
- Medical Appointments – There are no excuses here. Make sure your children or child are on track with check-ups, immunizations and other medical issues. Do not withhold access to urgent medical treatment due to travel restrictions. Dental offices are slowly opening up, so keep updated on all administrative orders in order to plan a safe return for those important dental checkups.
- Mental Health– This pandemic has isolated children from their peers and in some situations their parents and other significant people in their lives. It is important to monitor your child’s mental health for signs of depression and anxiety. Please seek out mental health support if necessary.
As coronavirus restrictions are loosened, and each family needs to create co-parenting plans that meet the safety concerns of their own families. The most important thing you can do is to keep watch of changing developments in New York City and executive orders Governor Andrew Cuomo. Eventually, we will all return to restaurants, schools and offices. Each time restrictions are loosened there’s added risk, but hopefully improved quality of life. As we return, continue to work closely with your co-parent to keep your child or children safe, while helping them safely access the outside world. I strongly advise parents to reach out to their children’s pediatrician and medical providers in order to seek additional medical guidance when there is a need for further clarification in creating a safe co-parenting plan.
The Law and Mediation Office of Helene Bernstein, PLLC is here to assist you with your co-parenting challenges either through mediation, negotiated settlements out of court, or as a last resort, through the Family Court. Helene Bernstein is available to speak with you at this time through a virtual chat or the telephone. Her office is located in Brooklyn Heights in New York City.
Law and Mediation Office of Helene Bernstein, PLLC
594 Dean Street, 2nd Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11238
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