The coronavirus pandemic has created a scenario where our lives have been taken out of rhythm to a great extent. By this I mean that the routines that we have been accustomed to in our own lives have, to various degrees, been cast aside in order to confront threat of this virus. Some of us have undergone changes in our lives that were more dramatic than others. Some of us have been able to return to near normalcy sooner rather than others. Whatever situation you and your family find yourselves in you should know that there are thousands of other people in our area who are going through similar circumstances as you. It sounds trite to say at this stage, but you are certainly not alone when it comes to parenting a child through difficult times.
While there are many challenges and difficulties that we have had to confront his parents over the past four months, the reality of our situation is that we can rely on helpful advice that could have applied to any situation in parenting no matter the time period. In today's blog post, I would like to provide you with some tips for parenting which are applicable to most any season of our lives but perhaps are more so important right now that we are dealing with unique challenges due to the pandemic. These pieces of advice are not in any specific order but hopefully many if not most of them are relevant to you and your family.
Tip #1: communicate with your co-parent
it may seem odd that I'm beginning my tips with one that does not directly involve your children, but I'm of the opinion that communication with your co-parent is where good parenting either starts or stops. No matter what your living situation is, you need to be able to share ideas and provide updates regarding your kids with their other parent. This is true no matter if you are married to your co-parent, are in a relationship with your co-parent, are no longer partnered with your co-parent or are divorced from your co-parent. Your children will benefit if you make the effort to communicate with the other parent no matter what the difficulties associated with doing so may be.
Tip #2: be prepared to disagree
We are faced with unique challenges and circumstances that many of us would never have foreseen us having to encounter. As a result, we are making decisions in assessing risk to ourselves and children on the fly. As a result, if you need to make a decision on behalf of your children Be prepared that your Co parent, and yes, as well as your children may disagree with your decision. Even in the face of disagreement, you should be patient with the disagreeable person and clear about your position and why you believe it is the best course to go.
Tip #3: think things through before you open your mouth
it's amazing to me how quickly we all went from regular, everyday citizens to experts on a virus and how that virus should be confronted. All you need to do is walk up and down your street and knock on doors to determine that there are as many opinions surrounding this situation as there are people. Before you get frustrated with your co-parent or tell your child something you may regret about the virus or about their behavior you should consider your words before you actually say them. Basically, think before you speak. The words you say may not be your true feelings but if you say them there is no taking them back.
Tip #4: Become comfortable with being wrong
it should not come as a shock to anyone when I say that we are all prone to error. We need only look at what the supposed experts had declared about the virus in March and where we are now to find that even those with advanced degrees and a great deal of experience can make mistakes and can create problems of their own with faulty predictions. If you were in a position where you needed to make a decision for your child, and it was later shown to be the wrong choice there is no harm in you admitting to that error and moving on to the next decision. Parenting is a long road to travel down. It is certainly a marathon and not a sprint. We are all prone to making decisions we regret but it is how we respond to those decisions that defines us not the decisions themselves.
Tip #5: Be honest with your children
My own kids are not even school aged but even they have questions about this virus. Their questions had more to do with why they weren't able to go to school in April and why the playground at Chick-fil-A is still not open. If you have older children, their questions are likely to be more advanced than the questions my kids were asking. My point is, you should answer honestly the questions of your children based on their age and maturity. You know what sort of information your child is capable of handling and you should not shy away from giving them perspective on the situation. Children look to adults for guidance in context in their lives. This is especially true during a global pandemic.
Tip #6: Determine risk for your family based on your circumstances
by this stage I'm sure we all have friends who have taken different courses of action in response to this virus. For example, some of our friends have more or less taking a business as usual approach to handling the virus. Share, they'll take into account the safety precautions sent down from our government but otherwise their activity level has remained pretty constant throughout this entire process. On the other hand, I'm sure you have friends just like I do that have barely left the house in four months and have associated a great deal of risk with any kind of normal activity level.
Wherever you fall in the risk toleration spectrum I would tell you that as a parent you need to make decisions for your family as much as you possibly can. Remember that you're an adult in that you have the ability to problem solve and make decisions for your family. I'm not telling you to disregard the recommendations made by our government but what I am reminding you of is that do not allow the state of Texas to become a standing parent for you during this crisis. Your kids rely on you to make decisions and not the governor. This is also a great opportunity for you to grow in fortitude and in your own problem-solving skills.
Tip #7: Review your court orders if you have not done so in some time
If you have gone through a divorce or child custody case and have not looked over your court orders and months or years, now is a great time to do so. The reality is that we all have some time on our hands, and we could always do well to be as familiar as possible with any court orders that are in place regarding visitation, possession and any other topic related to our children.
You and your co-parent may have had disagreements about some aspect of parenting your kids during this pandemic. A lot of times those disagreements are in regard to some aspect of your parenting plan which you all have neglected to remember or were simply unaware of from the beginning. Why not take the time to review your order and to see what you all agreed to back in the days of your family law case? There may be some guidance that the order can provide, or you may find that there needs to be at least a temporary modification made to those orders given your current circumstances.
Tip #8: Be flexible when it comes to visitation right now
Parents that operate under a family court order do so with the expectation that the world will provide them with a stable and routine environment in which to raise their children. Every parent hopes for stability a consistency for the lives of their children but I think parents who had been a family court especially do. A huge reason for this is that the visitation schedule of both parents in a family law case rely incredibly on the routine passage of time. There's something like a virus pops up that can throw visitation schedules into flux.
If you, your child or your co-parent were to get sick from the virus then I would recommend being as flexible with the other parent when it comes to rescheduling Visitation as you can be. If your child were to get sick while he or she were with your co-parent, then it would not make much sense to force your child to travel to spend time with you while he or she is ill. You should defer to the advice of your child's doctor and handle any changes to visitation that may arise after that.
Make updates for visitation would need to become the norm for your family if either parent is kept from your child for any stretch of time. This may mean that plans have to be changed for the summer and negotiation over when they make updates need to occur should also be had. Even if these talks are frustrating, remember that they are necessary to allow your child to returned to some semblance of consistency and stability in their lives.
Tip #9: Keep busy with your kids
I realize that this may be more easily said than done, given the extreme degree to which our lives have become restricted over the past four months, but you and your child should keep busy during this summer months. Take advantage of this opportunity to grow your relationship with your child no matter what their age is or what your circumstances are. Time may have been the biggest constraint on your ability to do this previously, but I think most of us have more time now than ever to devote to parenting our kids.
No matter what keeping busy means for you and your family I can almost promise you that it does not involve having your cell phone out when your kids are with you. You should do your best to provide your kids with your undivided attention as much as possible. Even if your summer vacation plans were ruined or you find yourself in a situation where you have less to do this summer than in summers past, that does not mean that you should rely on your phone as a fall back option for entertainment. If your screen is glowing that probably means but you are not fully engaged with your kids.
Tip #10: remember to have fun
I think that in times like this it isn't easy tendency to fall into that we should allow our apprehension and fear about the virus too creep into our lives with our kids. Rather than to allow our own insecurities to become worse in the parenting of our children I recommend doing whatever you can to place your focus on your kids and to be creative in coming up with activities to engage in during this time. Yes, you may not be able to go on that trip you planned but at the end of the day your children crave time with you more than anything else. If he can provide them with that time, then They will be able to look back on this time. And actually, draw some fund memories, perhaps.
Questions about the material contained in this blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys are available six days a week to meet with you in person, over the phone and via video. A consultation is a good opportunity for you to learn more about Texas family law as well as the services our office can provide to you and your family as clients.