If nothing else, one positive aspect of this pandemic has been our collective ability to learn how to be flexible. In truth, this was a skill that we had to learn rather than one that was optional. Many of us were creatures of habit before the pandemic where we maintained a consistent schedule and felt significant disruptions to our daily life if that schedule was ever changed for any reason. Very early on in this pandemic, it became apparent that this sort of rigid schedule keeping would not be possible for the foreseeable future.
Are you reading this blog post from home rather than in the office? If so, you are like many people who were fortunate enough to be able to shift to working from home rather than in an office environment but were able to maintain their job in the hours that they kept in that regard. Working from home offered the flexibility that was sort of a double-edged sword. You were able to multi-task while getting your work done but you were also able to be distracted by good distractions like your children and not so good distractions like social media. The irony of working from home is that so many people embraced it at the beginning of the process but I have spoken with a handful of different folks who are eager to get back to the office want companies and governments to start allowing for it.
The other most significant way that our daily lives had been impacted by a change in schedules is regarding schooling and how we attended school. For example, the spring semester of the 2019 to 2020 school year was all held remotely and off-campus after the beginning of the pandemic. It was only in the fall semester of the current school year at schools allowed for in-person learning. In my opinion, this is going to be one of the more interesting aspects of the entire pandemic when we can look back on it years in the future. What was the long-term effect of not allowing for in-person schooling for our students throughout an extended period?
By now we are all familiar with the reasons why school administrators decided it was best to not hold in-person learning and instead focus on hybrid or distance learning approaches. To slowly spread the virus schools shifted their attention away from the person in classroom based learning towards promoting online-based instruction. If any of you reading this are the parents of school-age children then you can ask them what their experience has been like and compare that to what your own experience has been like. Unfortunately, I think the consensus is across the board that teachers, students, and parents alike are not huge fans of remote learning when compared to in-person learning.
This is just another example of how everyone involved with the schools has had to develop a degree of flexibility when it comes to this important subject. For parents, while there were choices as far as homeschooling or private school education for your kids if you didn't want to send them to online school in the public schools most families were not in a position to choose one of these options. Like we tell our kids all the time, sometimes you have to take lemons and make lemonade. We had to make the best out of a bad situation and played the hand that we were dealt with.
The challenges of having your child learn remotely would only be exacerbated if you found yourself residing in a different household than that of your child's other parent. At that point you would find yourself in a position where you needed to coordinate your child's education with a school where you were not able to set foot inside, a teacher you may have never met, a Co-parent that's you cannot agree with on anything he had a child who is perhaps unwilling or less than excited to learn in that environment. To say that many of you reading this blog post or push tier limits of parenting would probably not be an overstatement.
In today's blog post I would like to share with you my thoughts on how to effectively Co-parent your child about their remote learning opportunities. I think the obvious thought many of us have regarding the subject is that we don't want to have to deal with this topic much longer. However, while many schools have moved away from remote learning we can't rule out other causes that may see remote learning take on added importance in our lives. I would like all of us to be better prepared to face these challenges the next time remote learning finds itself as an option for our school aged children.
What is co-parenting?
There is no better or more appropriate place for us to start this discussion than by talking about what a Co-parent is. When I use the term Co-parent in today's blog post I am referencing any parenting situation where you and your child's other parent are not in a marital or other relationship. You may have gone through a divorce, child custody case or may have never gone to court but are simply no longer living together or in a relationship of any kind. When you are sharing custody and sharing the Visitation of a child with another person that is the basics of a co-parenting relationship.
Your ability to Co-parent is directly proportionate to how well your child does in school, in their social life, in family situations, and across the board. In my time as a family attorney, I have seen children thrive in Co-parenting environments and suffer the consequences that are seen when two parents cannot get along and cannot coordinate their efforts when it comes to raising the child. This is unfortunate as most parents want the same thing for the child: to live happy, productive, and fulfilling lives and to grow up to do the same as an adult.
The difficult part for parents is that their methods of getting their children to that point may stand in stark contrast to that of their Co-parent. You may be thinking about the reasons why you are no longer married or in a relationship with your child's other parent. Many of those significant reasons may stem from differences in how you ran your household and how you wanted to raise your child. For that reason, you may have come through the difficulty of moving out, beginning a family law case, and eventually getting court orders that defined the parent-child relationship that you shared with your child as well as the Co-parenting relationship you share with your former partner.
This is the atmosphere that co-parenting must succeed within. Your challenge as a parent is to take a broken relationship and put it in the past and build a new relationship with someone that is now termed as your Co-parent. It is a noble goal to want to succeed in a relationship with another person. You and your Co-parent derive no benefit in an intangible way from being kind to one another. Maybe in some spiritual or emotional way you all learning to live with one another this is beneficial. However, the most concrete way that you can benefit from learning how to co-parent is through the direct benefit to your child.
I hope that those of you who are skeptical about learning how to work with your Co-parent can take some degree of solace from this aspect of the relationship. Keep in mind that what you are doing is not intended to benefit you necessarily, but it is intended to benefit your child. I am almost certain that at some point during your family law case or your life you told someone or thought to yourself that you would do anything to improve the quality of life for your child. Or that you would give anything to be able to spend more time with your child. The reality is that that way you can most benefit your child when it comes to distance learning this will not only be present for him or her but to iron out differences with your Co-parent and focus intentionally on how to benefit your child's experience with distance learning.
Working with your Co-parent to get your child on a schedule
One of the great parts about how the school year functions are that it teaches our children to live on a schedule. As much as many of us have talked about wanting a more unpredictable life it had more variation to it the reality is that human beings operate better when they live on a schedule. If you have seen your child struggle during the past year due to their schedule being changed as it has been then you have the option to do something about it. Even if your child is learning in a remote environment you can do a lot to help him or her in the rest of their schedule by being intentional with how you structure your child's day.
For starters, I would work with your child to make sure that he or she wakes up at the same time each day. This keeps the rhythms of your child's life consistent and helps your child to be able to teach his or her body what time to wake up in the morning. As an adult, we can take for granted how difficult it can be to teach ourselves to get up and moving at a certain time. I'm sure many of you are like me and even if he didn't have an alarm Clock your body would naturally wake up at around the same time each day. That is not something that happens naturally. You have to teach yourself this skill.
Of course, waking up on time and ready to go means that you needed to have gotten a good night's sleep. None of us functioned well we did not get a good night's sleep. You learned this when your child was younger and would wake up during the night. Now that your child may be on an unorthodox school schedule you are figuring out that he or she does better when a full night's sleep is had period for that reason I would recommend that you structure your child's evening in such a way that it allows him or her to get to bed at a normal time. Do not allow him or her the opportunity to stay up later and to go to bed at inconsistent times.
This is where the tricky part of our discussion comes in. You may have direct control over how your child lives in your household, but all bets are off when he or she goes to see their other parent. Your plans and the work that you have done in your household may go up in smoke completely when your child finds him or herself at the other parent's home. You need to ask yourself how you can exert some degree of control over your child when he or she is away from you or the better question to ask is what you can do to work with your Co-parent to ensure that you all are on the same page when it comes to maintaining some consistency in your child’s schedule.
You should start by being very clear with your Co-parent about what you have done to keep your child on a set schedule. It is not reasonable for you to become upset at your Co-parent when it comes to not keeping your child on a schedule when you have not shared with him or her what your expectations and beliefs are on this subject. One of my favorite pieces of advice to give people when on subjects like this is that you are being unkind if you are being unclear. Make known your expectations and the parameters you have set for your child at your home.
Next, you need to be willing to take feedback and listen to the positions of your Co-parent even if he or she disagrees with you. Again, you and your Co-parent may have different parenting styles and different philosophies on how to raise your child. That is to be expected and is not something that's necessarily a bad thing. However, what you should not expect is for you and your Co-parent to be at odds continuously as a result of your living in different households. I would recommend that she specifically asked her Co-parent to honor your methods of parenting and to assure him or her that you will do the same.
Part of your child's routine should be a set time and place for him or her to complete their school work. It can be difficult for anyone to sit in the same location all day and do their schoolwork and any homework. For example, if you have one computer in the home with your child does their school work during the day you may want to figure out another location for your child to do any learning that requires work outside of school. Even if it means using a laptop or tablet that allows your child to move around a little bit that can go a long way to helping him or her maintain their sanity while being at home for so long.
Another useful piece of advice that I can provide when it comes to coordinating your Co-parenting efforts is to work with your child's teachers on holding regular meetings with you and your Co-parent as often as possible. In the future, many of these meetings can be had in person but given the circumstances, we find ourselves in now I would expect that online meetups would be preferable. In that case, you and your Co-parent should talk beforehand about any questions or issues you want to raise with the teacher and then meet after any meeting to discuss any follow up that is needed after a parent-teacher conference.
Staying on top of your child's schooling is always important but I believe it is even more so now that you cannot physically be in the schools with your child. Working with your Co-parent allows your child to also see that you all are a united front when it comes to the importance of their education. Of all the benefits that effective co-parenting can bring to a family, this may be the most important of all.
Questions about the material contained in today's 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 offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations can be a great way for you to learn more about Texas family law as well as about how your circumstances figure into a potential family law case.