The Virus and Virtual Parenting

The Coronavirus has affected the lives of virtually every routine social interaction.  Millions have lost jobs or are facing an uncertain financial future.

The virus’s ravages have also spread into the family law arena.  Long-standing custody agreements are suddenly unraveling and, simultaneously, many of the courts are not open to address the new and unforeseen issues that the pandemic presents.

A shared custody arrangement may now violate local ordinances, administrative mandates or even state stay-at-home orders put into effect in an effort to control the Coronavirus spread.  In some areas of the country, parents may find that courts are entering orders requiring children to stay with the primary residential parent if there is a city or state stay-at-home mandate. Even without such orders, parents may find it easier to not send children back and forth frequently between homes and are looking to other ways to virtually parent. Others may actually be on the front-lines and are concerned about possible exposure to the coronavirus and so are agreeable to reduced parenting time.

So what should a parent do in order to makeup for loss parenting time?  Some options include the following:

  • First, a parent who has the coronavirus or suspects they have the coronavirus needs to take all possible precautions to avoid spreading it to their child.
  • Second, don’t despair! Arrangements to “make up” for lost time can be made after the temporary limitations on parenting time are lifted.  Cooperating parents may agree to make up provisions in advance.
  • Use technology liberally! Numerous technologies are available for many.  There are a great number of options which offer the ability to interact with children whether one sees them in person or not.
  • Online cooking together can be a wonderful experience where both you and your child are, simultaneously but in different locations, preparing a shared recipe together. Pick a fun recipe to make together and set a time to do so!
  • Don’t forget the schoolwork! Whether present or not, a parent can work with the child on fun and interesting educational activities.  There are an abundance of free, online educational games and activities for children.  There are also some inexpensive services such as at Adventure Academy that charge a nominal monthly fee and which will also communicate with your child’s teachers about online activities and opportunities. Even if you are not with the child, you may be able to join your child virtually to take a number of school-related remote courses/activities which help educate your child.
  • There are a number of programs that have sprung up which can be played remotely including via a phone app or on a laptop. A parent and a child or children can set a schedule which includes specific times to play games together, read books, sing songs and interact with one another, all virtually.
  • If you have a phone and a laptop on both ends, FaceTime calling a child and then joining together in a game or activity may be an option. There are a plethora of online opportunities along these lines. Kidsworldfun has online games.  Myfreezoo offers numerous options as do switchzoo, verywellfamily, funbrain, and hangrybynature, along with many others
  • Attend a remote third party function with your child. Many zoos and aquariums are now offering remote tours/visitations without charge.  You can literally join your child to see all sorts of mammals, fish and creatures of interest all over the world.

Understand that it’s okay to parent away from a child during these uncertain times.  This does not prohibit a parent from interacting with the child regularly, and it may actually offer opportunities for one to spend more time and have more interaction with their child, albeit remotely, than a parent does otherwise in person as part of their parenting plan.

About the Author:

Stuart Scott is a litigation attorney with over 25 years of experience. He has tried hundreds of cases in both state and federal court. Some of his noteworthy victories have been featured in local, state and national publications. Stuart is also listed as a Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31 Family Law Mediator. Stuart focuses his primary area of practice on family law. He represents people going through divorce and focuses his efforts on providing his legal services and advice to his clients in this area. Mr. Scott may be reached in our Nashville office at 615-620-1710.