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 to confront the 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 yourself in, you should know that there are thousands of other people in our area 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 been applied to any case in parenting, no matter the time. In today's blog post, I would like to provide you with some tips for parenting that apply to almost any season of our lives but perhaps are more 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 think that communication with your co-parent is where good parenting either starts or stops. No matter what your living situation is, you need to share ideas and provide updates regarding your kids with their other parents. 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. Your children will benefit if you make an effort to communicate with the other parent no matter the difficulties associated with doing so.
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 decide on behalf of your children, be prepared that your Co-parent, and yes, 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 incredible 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 their behavior, you should consider your words before saying them. Think before you speak. The words you say may not be your true feelings, but there is no taking them back if you tell them.
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 create problems of their own with faulty predictions. If you were in a position where you needed to decide 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 indeed a marathon and not a sprint. We are all prone to making decisions we regret, but how we respond to those decisions defines us, not the decisions themselves.
Tip #5: Be honest with your children
My kids are not even school-aged but even they have questions about this virus. Their questions had more to do with why they couldn't 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 my kids' questions. My point is that you should honestly answer your children's questions based on their age and maturity. You know what sort of information your child can handle, and you should not shy away from giving them perspective on the situation. Children look to adults for guidance in a 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 consider 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 has barely left the house in four months and have associated a great deal of risk with any average 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 can 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 an excellent opportunity for you to grow in fortitude and your 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. We could always do well to be as familiar as possible with any court orders 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. Often, those disagreements are about some part of your parenting plan that 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 who operate under a family court order do so with the expectation that the world will provide them with a stable and routine environment to raise their children. Every parent hopes for stability and consistency in their children's lives, but I think parents who had been in a family court especially do. A huge reason for this is that the visitation schedule of both parents in a family law case relies incredibly on the familiar passage of time. There's something like a virus that 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 they were with your co-parent, then it would not make much sense to force your child to travel to spend time with you while they are 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 time. This may mean that plans must be changed for the summer, and negotiation over when they make updates 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. Please take advantage of this opportunity to grow your relationship with your child, no matter their age or circumstances. 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 the summer's past, that does not mean that you should rely on your phone as a fallback 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
In times like this, it isn't easy to fall into that we should allow our apprehension and fear about the virus to creep into our lives with our kids. Rather than allowing our insecurities to become worse in the parenting of our children, I recommend doing whatever you can to place your focus on your kids and 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, 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 an excellent opportunity for you to learn more about Texas family law and our office's services to you and your family as clients.