How to co-parent when schools reopen during the pandemic

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  • Many schools are reopening come fall, adding another layer of difficulty to parenting during the pandemic.
  • Parents need to come up with a game-plan for where they stand on social distancing and how they will stick to it.
  • Here are three tips from parenting, educational, and legal experts on how to co-parent when schools reopen.

Navigating co-parenting with your child's other parent can feel incredibly difficult under normal circumstances. In a pandemic, the notion can be absolutely anxiety riddling.

Regardless of how strong the communication between you and your child's other parent is, co-parenting — or when two parents who aren't romantically together parent their child together — can be especially tricky when navigating high stress and indefinite lockdown.

"Right now, co-parenting is very difficult but very important," Reena B. Patel, a parenting expert and educational psychologist, told Insider. "There are so many things out of our hands and so much unknown, not only are you and your ex unsure of what's going to happen, so are your children."Advertisement

As the school year approaches and schools across the US begin to reopen, it's especially important that parents are on the same page for their child's well-being.

Insider spoke to legal, parenting, and education experts on how to successfully co-parent when schools reopen during the pandemic.

Get on the same page about social distancing

Talking to your ex about how you two are social distancing is important because it lets the other know what your child is being exposed to during their time together. It also allows you to talk to your child together about what social distancing will look like at school.
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Come up with a gameplan with your ex for the school year with guidelines on how you two will social distance. What friends and family do you plan on seeing? How regularly will you two be tested for COVID-19? Will you two engage in riskier activities as businesses open up like getting a haircut, getting your nails done, or getting tattoos?

According to Jessica Reece Fagan, a partner attorney at the Hedgepeth Heredia Family Law in Georgia, if you notice your co-parent is not observing social distancing, it's important to communicate immediately as this could expose your child to COVID-19. "If a child is high risk, it may be appropriate temporarily to halt visits so that the child can practice self, in-home isolation," Fagan wrote for Law.com. "Communicate concerns and possible solutions with the other parent."Advertisement

Be consistent with your schedules and maintain the agreed-upon custody terms

Consistency is key, especially when the school year begins. While your schedules don't have to be exactly the same, certain things should be consistent like mealtime, bedtime, and when to finish homework.

"Rules don't have to be exactly the same between two households, but you and your ex should establish generally consistent guidelines," Patel said. "They should be mutually agreed upon for both households."

This applies to custody schedules as well. While you or your ex might have anxieties about the pandemic, whether it be because one of you is a frontline worker or because your child is coming into contact with many other children come fall, maintaining your schedule is crucial. Advertisement

"Generally, custody visits should continue during the pandemic," Fagan wrote. "Personal fears and anxieties on their own do not warrant withholding parenting time."

The stability is healthy for your child and can establish a sense of normalcy despite the chaos outside.

Don't speak negatively about your ex in the house

Communicating and coordinating with someone, especially an ex-partner, can be incredibly frustrating at times. The stress of a pandemic will only worsen tensions and might make you need to vent about itAdvertisement

Whatever you do, don't do it around your child.

"Instead of talking negatively about your ex, commit to positive talk in both households no matter what the circumstances," Patel said. "With so much instability right now, positivity in your household is essential. Children want to feel safe, the negative reactions you have for one another must be kept between you two if must."

If you absolutely need to get some things off your chest, go for a walk and phone a friend, family member, or therapist. Advertisement

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