Single-Parenting and COVID-19: Best Practices to Keep Your Family Safe
May 01, 2020
Covid-19 and social distancing has brought a lot of change and establishing a “new normal” can be challenging for all of us. Everyone has emotions that vary from day today, sometimes hour to hour, in response to these challenges. Now, more than ever, is a time for grace and empathy as we navigate this journey.
To be the best provider I can, I try to look at the many perspectives that patient families offer. During the COVID-19 pandemic, one of those perspectives is that of single-parenthood. Several single parents and caregivers shared their unique challenges and ways they have successfully navigated them. These are some of their tips:
Access to childcare is important for people who work outside the home, but also for parents who work inside the home. Even going to the grocery store can be stressful due to concerns over exposing children to the virus. Not having access to daycare centers, and limiting exposure to grandparents (for their protection) make this especially difficult.
Go to stores at times that are not as busy, like early in the morning or late at night. Parents or caregivers and children older than 2 years old should wear a mask and everyone should wash hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds.
If working from home, consider getting up early to get work done before kids are up and needing your attention.
Consider asking a college student or someone out of work to help with childcare while you work.
Managing the emotions of children who go back and forth to different households can be amplified during times of high stress and altered routines. Currently, children do not have the consistent structure of school to serve as a common thread as they cope with varying expectations between homes.
If possible, try to establish agreed-upon schedules and expectations between parents and caregivers.
Access telehealth for counseling.
Help kids feel connected by using video platforms to reach out to teachers, school counselors, peers and coaches.
Provide ways for children to communicate with the other parent or caregiver during the visit.
Managing personal stress
Full-time custodial parents may feel stress due to not having a break from childcare responsibilities, or wonder what might happen if the parent were to get coronavirus. Shared-custodial parents may worry about exposure because of children going between households and loneliness when the children are with the other parent.
Take care of yourself! Reach out to a friend or a counselor when you are feeling stressed.
Exercise! Do a free online yoga or meditation class or simply go for a walk outside.
Prioritize and let the little things go.
Have a plan for when the kids are away to help fill the time (book, project, virtual gatherings with friends).
Sarah Denny, MD, FAAP, works as an attending physician in the Section of Emergency Medicine at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and as an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.
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