How to Handle School Year Worries Caused By COVID-19

Tips for Managing the Upcoming School Year’s Changes from COVID-19

As of August 6, 2020, more than 5 million cases of COVID-19 were reported in the United States along with more than 160,000 deaths from the disease. Many scientists expect the pandemic to get worse this autumn, which is when students would traditionally return to school for the start of a new school year. Families are dealing with a lot of uncertainty right now, and these tips can help you manage the stress, anxiety, worry and overwhelming feelings about parenting time that you and your child may experience.

Make a Family Illness Plan and Address Parenting Time in Case of Illness

Even if your school district is planning 100% virtual learning and you’re working at home, chances are good that you’ll still need to leave once in a while. If your child is doing a blended learning or 100% in-person school schedule, you’ll definitely need a plan for what to do if one or more of your household members becomes ill with COVID-19. If you have primary custody and get sick, consider how your child will have access to food. If your child gets ill, plan for how to get them to the doctor or get them a COVID-19 test. You may even want one of our family law attorneys to help you with a guardianship plan in case you pass away.

Prepare for Emergency Custody and Parenting Time Changes

Our divorce lawyers can help you with emergency custody and visitation changes if you, your child, or your ex-spouse becomes infected with COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New Jersey Department of Health require a person to quarantine at home for 14 days after a possible exposure to COVID-19 and for at least 10 days after a positive test result for COVID-19. If your custody arrangement requires parenting time or shared custody, COVID-19 infection could disrupt the court-mandated plan. An emergency order through a Lawrence Law divorce attorney could help you avoid legal ramifications if illness disrupts your previously agreed upon arrangements.

Choose the Best Learning Model for Your Child

You may have already worked with one of our divorce lawyers, your ex-spouse, and their divorce attorney to solidify your child’s educational plan. If this was done before the COVID-19 pandemic, you may need to renegotiate some things. Perhaps your child has asthma or an immune system disorder that puts them at a high risk for serious complications from COVID-19. In such a case, you might want your child in a virtual learning model. On the other hand, you might need your child to do in-person learning if your job requires you to leave the home. If your ex-spouse disagrees with your educational plan for your child, our family lawyers can help you protect your child’s health and your right to make the best medical and educational decision for them.

Review and Practice Hygiene and Safety Routines

You can’t control everything, especially not when it comes to what other people do or don’t do during the COVID-19 pandemic. One thing you can control is protecting yourself and your child with proper hygiene, safety, and sanitation. If your child is anxious about wearing a mask, now is the time to start having them practice wearing one for one hour, then two hours, and eventually up to the length of a full school day. If your child rides the bus to and from school, they’ll need to practice wearing a mask for the full length of time. Your child can take a short break from the mask for lunch. Show your child how to properly wash their hands and how to use hand sanitizer. If your child is hands-on and likes to hug others or has trouble maintaining personal space, practice social distancing. Getting your child in the habit of these hygiene and safety practices will make the transition to in-person learning easier.

Prepare for At-home Learning

parenting timeEven if your school district starts with blended or 100% in-person school, you need to be prepared for a change. If the pandemic worsens in your town or within the school district, the buildings might be closed. An outbreak in a particular school building could force every student and staff member to quarantine for two weeks. Be prepared to do at-home learning, and coach your child on how to stay focused at home.

Virtually Connect With Other Families

Now is a good time to digitally connect with your child’s friends and classmates. See if you can get an email list of their classmates. If your school has a PTO group, connect to it on social media. Ask other parents if they’d be willing to do video calls or meetings so that kids can catch up and interact with each other. If your child can see their friends and classmates in this low-risk situation, this may reduce their stress and anxiety.

Check the School District’s Website

You’ll certainly have a lot of questions about the upcoming school year. Chances are good that other parents will too. Subscribe to your child’s school’s social media profiles. Check the school district’s website regularly for updates. Make sure you’re getting the robocalls and emails that contain important information. Update your contact information as needed.

Keep Up With Pandemic Developments in Your Community

While ignorance can be bliss, what you don’t know can hurt you when it comes to current events related to COVID-19 in your community. Local outbreaks can have a big effect on whether schools stay open or closed. Knowing what’s going on where you live helps you prepare for the strong possibility of quarantining or having to do remote learning.

Stock Up on the Right Supplies for Extended Parenting Time

If you had to quarantine at home, you’d go through plenty of food and household supplies. If possible, stock up on four weeks’ worth of food, hygiene, and school supplies for you, your child, and any pets that you have. You’ll have less stress and anxiety knowing that you’re prepared in case you get sick or exposed to someone with COVID-19. If your expenses have increased, don’t hesitate to contact our divorce attorney to look into a renegotiation of child support or alimony.

Be Honest With Your Child About Parenting Time Changes

Adults aren’t the only ones worried about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on school, extracurricular activities, team sports, and more. Your kid might worry about their older teacher or friend getting sick. Listen to your child, and validate their feelings. If you’re worried or don’t have an answer, be honest with your child. It’s okay to say you don’t know, but you will try to find out. Do your best to stay calm and be a good role model in healthy stress management and behavior even in the face of an uncertain school year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended school schedules, extracurricular activities, latchkey programs, and other services that custodial parents rely on for their children. If you need legal changes to your custody arrangement, child or spousal support, or parenting time schedules, our family law attorneys are prepared to assist you. To schedule an appointment with one of our family lawyer, call us at (908) 645-1000, email us at or visit us at Lawrence Law online today.

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