By Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich, Esq.
Warmer weather and longer days are here— we’re officially in summertime— but let’s face it: this is weird. Coping with the ongoing novel coronavirus, and dealing with phased re-openings as the pandemic persists throughout summer, will feel different because it is different. And if you’re co-parenting, it may even feel more difficult than co-parenting through quarantine, because our— and our kids’— natural desires are to go out and enjoy summertime fun in the sun!
And you still can. But there are a few things you and your co-parents should talk about, and do, before you all leave the house and enjoy the season.
1. Prioritize health: Agree with your co-parent that everyone’s health and safety is paramount. If that means strict quarantining for 14 days before or after taking a trip or expanding your circle (or “bubble,” in our new pandemic language), so be it. If it means patiently explaining to a child that they have to wear a mask when they go to a park with a friend, it’s worth it. Safety first.
2. Consult with your co-parent: With summer plans changing (okay, we’re not going on our usual getaway this year) or outright canceled (goodbye, summer camp! Maybe, to the beach?) it’s more imperative than ever to consult and talk honestly. It means being flexible and adaptive in giving your children— and your co-parent— a chance to enjoy a bit of my favorite season, and everyone a chance to make a summertime memory during the pandemic.
3. Be creative: A day at the beach too crowded? What about a wading pool in the backyard, complete with all the make-your-own popsicles you can eat? You can even set up a lawn chair with amenities and escort your child to their reserved spot. An afternoon movie matinee at the local cinema out of the question? Screen a classic summer blockbuster and set up a snack stand, with admission tickets and hand-drawn movie posters. Family trip to the ice cream place after dinner out of the question? Set up a make your own sundae bar or, if you really want to go for it, make your own mason jar ice cream. Use your imagination this summer!
4. Make it fun-damental: Just as it isn’t a ‘normal’ summer, it wasn’t a ‘normal’ school year. Most schools transitioned to remote learning at some point, and pretty much any teacher or parent will tell you something was lost in translation in Google Classroom, or over the transom of the Chromebook. Therefore, encouraging children to pursue a vigorous summer reading list, or keep a journal of their pandemic summer, or watch online educational videos relating to science, math, English and history could be a positive way to continue learning throughout the summer— especially if you and your co-parent can agree on how to jointly promote learning. The same way adults working from home many not realize what day it is, the lines between summer and school are going to be blurred this year.
5. Stay cool— and stay safe: Even without the ongoing threat of the novel coronavirus, we know, due to climate change, it’s going to be another hot summer. The temptation may be to flee to the beach or town pool immediately, but even if these facilities are open, it’s important to use them wisely. Wear a mask. Consult with your co-parent so that everyone’s following the same recommended guidelines. Stay 6 to 10 feet apart from other families on a beach. And if you don’t feel comfortable cooling off in a public place, see if you can make your home a cool one. That doesn’t mean you have to rush to add an expensive pool; an investment in a long, new hose, plenty of water balloons on hand, or a reasonably priced slip-and-slide might just do the trick.
6. Give everyone a break: Just like a normal summer family trip or experience, there’s going to be meltdowns. Rainy days when no one wants to do anything but sulk. Tears over something not being the way it used to be— and not just from the kids. And that’s okay. It’s okay to be not okay this summer, and to try and simply get through it— and to try to enjoy what summer moments you all can.
7. Remember: how we act toward each other, during this pandemic, will set a tone for after the pandemic. We hope you have a responsible, safe, happy— and healthy— summer!
A version of this article already appeared on my blog, https://lmllawyers.com/category/lets-talk-about-divorce/
Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich, Esq. is the co-Chair of the Family Law Department at the New Jersey-based law firm of Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, O’Cathain & O’Cathain, LLC (www.lmllawyers.com). Madeline is a Diplomate of the American College of Family Trial Lawyers. She is a prior President of the national American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, as well as past President of its New Jersey Chapter, and past Chair of the Family Law Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association.