COVID-19 PREVENTION MEASURES AND CO-PARENTING
by Kevin Segler
Everyone has a vested interest in defeating COVID-19 by “flattening the curve.” For some, the concern is their own health and mortality. Others may be more concerned about spreading the disease. There are some with little concern for their own well-being or the health and safety of others. And others have concerns about mitigating the pandemic’s economic consequences.
Whatever one’s motivations are, we all share the same desired outcome: defeat the pandemic. The more people do their part, the sooner this outcome is achievable. Federal, state, and local governments have attempted to promote or mandate safety measures. Many businesses have done the same. But it is up to individuals to put these safety measures in place on every level of their daily lives. Implementing and enforcing safety protocols in a home with children is difficult. But doing so as co-parents, in two homes, with children going back and forth requires even more effort.
Co-parents should be proactive about protecting themselves, their children, and other family members. Consider the items below when taking steps to prevent COVID-19 in your homes and across the globe.
Educate Yourselves and Your Children
Both co-parents should get educated and then educate their children. Prevent COVID-19 by learning about it. Learn what it is, how it spreads, what the symptoms look like, what effectively stops it, and what doesn’t. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website provides abundant COVID-19 information. Moreover, the CDC provides reliable information—not mere speculation or rumors. So, start there with your COVID-19 education.
Include Safety AND Prevention Measures In Your COVID-19 Co-Parenting Plan
Have a COVID-19 co-parenting plan that includes safety and prevention measures. Each parent taking protective and prevention measures in each household are crucial. The CDC provides guidance for creating a COVID-19 household plan of action. For co-parents, both households need to take part.
Make a point to be more rigorous about basic disease prevention techniques. Get on the same page with your co-parent to make these basic actions a routine in each household. The CDC’s basic disease prevention techniques include:
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (especially if you been in a public place);
- Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Cover the entire surface of your hands and rub together until they feel dry;
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands;
- Avoid contact with people who are sick;
- Cover coughs and sneezes (then immediately wash hands);
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily;
- If you are sick—STAY HOME, except to get medical care;
- If you are not sick—STAY HOME to avoid spreading COVID-19 in your community; and
- If you have to be out in public, stay at least six feet away from anyone else.
Follow CDC recommendations on how to clean and disinfect your home. Wear disposable gloves. Clean surfaces, especially high touch surfaces, with soap and water. Then, use a household disinfectant. Remember to clean soft surfaces, electronics, and laundry. To be the most effective, follow these recommendations at each co-parent’s household.
Lessen germ transmitting between co-parent homes before exchanging the children.
- Clean your vehicle as if it were part of the house or your body;
- Clean the children and their clothes (or at least have their dirty laundry in a separate bag);
- Keep dirty laundry separated until washed; and
- Immediately wash their hands and clean/disinfect anything they brought with them.
Inform the other parent if you exposed the children to someone who might be ill or to a public place. They can watch for symptoms and take extra precautions at their household.
Contingency Planning if A Child or Family Member Is Infected with COVID-19
Have a co-parenting contingency plan in case either household experiences a COVID-19 infection. If you or someone in your household gets sick, follow the CDC recommendations here and here. Also, discuss with your co-parent how this will play out in both households. The two paramount concerns in this situation are:
- Ensure the sick individual receives the proper care; and
- Prevent the spread of the disease to other children or household members. This is especially crucial. if other members of a household are at higher risk for severe illness.
Non-COVID-19 Health Issues Resulting from COVID-19 Pandemic
Stress associated with a pandemic can cause separate potential health problems. Those health issues can be easily overlooked and neglected.
Fear and anxiety about a disease can cause strong emotions in both adults and children. Moreover, not everyone responds the same to stressful situations. Stress during a pandemic like COVID-19 can be due to one or many things. Some stressors that you or a loved one may experience are:
- Fear and worry about personal health or the health of loved ones;
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns;
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating;
- Worsening of chronic physical or mental health problems; or
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
Mitigate COVID-19 Related Stress
To reiterate, it is important to educate yourself with accurate, reliable COVID-19 information. Then, share that information with others to help them manage their stress. They can then follow suit and help others as well, strengthening the entire community. Also, when you help others cope with their stress, it can uphold and even strengthen your ability to cope.
To further mitigate stress, the CDC suggests the following:
- Reduce unnecessary exposure to news and social media. Repetitive, unnecessary doom-and-gloom can weigh us down, impacting our ability to cope.
- Mind your physical and mental health. Various healthy habits to continue or consider adding to your routine include:
- Unwind at least once per day. To unwind, do activities that you enjoy. See Dr. Barbara Markways’ Seven Types of Self-Care Activities for Coping With Stress.
- Connect with others. Call, email, text, DM, video call the people that you trust. Share your concerns and feelings with them. First, communicate if you are open to dialogue or if you simply need someone to listen. If you are open to dialogue, be open to insights, suggestions, and other feedback. Then, pay that forward. Invite the other person to do the share or reach out to someone who may (or may not) be struggling during this crisis.
COVID-19 Related Stress in Children
Like adults, not all children respond to stress the same way either. Children can react, in part, on what they see from the adults around them. Parents who deal with
COVID-19 calmly and confidently provide the best support for their children. Parents who are knowledgeable are often better prepared. And better-prepared parents can be more reassuring to others around them.
- Excessive crying or irritation in younger children;
- Returning to behaviors they have outgrown;
- Excessive worry or sadness;
- Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits;
- Irritability and “acting out” behaviors in teens;
- Poor school performance or avoiding school;
- Difficulty with attention and concentration;
- Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past; or
- Unexplained headaches or body pain.
Ways to Support Your Children Through The COVID-19 Crisis
Per the CDC, here are some things parents can do to support their children through this crisis:
- Talk with your children about the COVID-19 outbreak. Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way your children can understand;
- Reassure children they are safe and that it is ok if they feel upset. Let the children how you and your co-parent deal with stress so that they can learn how to cope from each of you;
- Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of COVID-19, including social media. Children may become frightened by something they misinterpret or do not understand;
- Try to keep up with regular routines. For example, school is on hold or closed. For many. So, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities. Try to coordinate these schedules with your co-parent; and
- Be a role model. Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat well. Connect with friends and family members in acceptable ways under the circumstances (i.e., telephone, messaging, video calls, etc.).
To find out more about how to help children cope with emergencies, go here.
Parents have many resources available to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The same goes for resources to help cope with related stress. But for co-parents, it is imperative they tackle prevention and stress management together. In some. situations, one co-parent may refuse to get on board. In that case, it should not prevent the other from enacting prevention measures in their home.
Co-parenting can be a challenge, especially during a crisis. If you have child custody and child visitation questions or needs, consult an experienced Dallas/Fort Worth family law attorney at KoonsFuller today.
Co-parenting can be challenging, with or without a crisis. We hope that the above 6 Tips for Co-Parenting through COVID-19 is beneficial to you and your family.
If you feel you are in need of additional support to navigate co-parenting, contact family law board-certified and child custody / child visitation attorney Kevin Segler. Or, call one of our five family law and divorce offices located in Dallas, Denton, Houston, Plano and Southlake / Fort Worth to schedule a consultation with one of our licensed attorneys. The consultation provides you with an opportunity to ask questions and receive honest feedback.
We take great pride in representing our friends and neighbors throughout the State of Texas. We hope that you give us the opportunity to represent you and your family should the need arise.