It takes two to raise a child – Why co-parenting matters during the Pandemic
Pandemic parenting has its challenges as social distancing and school closures have completely changed the way families live, work and play while co-existing 24/7 under one roof. However, for mothers and fathers co-parenting in separate homes there are another set of challenges to consider, such as where kids will sleep, how will kids get to or sign into virtual school and when and who is responsible for planning and implementing extra-curricular activities, all while considering COVID safety. With many family courts still closed, co-parents must rely on each other to act in their children’s best interest and that is having both parents present.
Nearly 24 million, or 35 percent of children nationwide, are being raised in single parent households often without access to their fathers and the love, emotional and financial support that comes with that relationship. As families grapple with their “new normal,” relationships between separated and divorced parents can become even more strained.
The breakup of a family is incredibly difficult for all parties and it takes a great deal of time to sort through their new normal outside of a pandemic. Research shows children reach their fullest potential when both of their parents actively participate in their lives. This involvement includes spending quality time, providing guidance, being a positive role model, effectively co-parenting and helping with necessary financial support.
The Dads’ Resource Center, a youth advocacy organization that promotes the well-being and healthy development of children from separated or divorced families, recently analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97), which looked at outcomes for children from households with both biological parents compared to those without a biological father in the household.
According to the study, children raised in homes without their fathers were 10.9 percent more likely to smoke, 20.4 percent more likely to have engaged in hard drug use and 33.1 percent more likely to have intercourse before the age of 17. They were 13.1 percent more likely to need mental health treatment, 70.7 percent more likely to have been convicted of a felony and 94.4 percent more likely to have used government programs, such as WIC, SNAP and Worker’s Compensation, 6.9 percent less likely to graduate from high school, 42.9 percent less likely to graduate from college, 25.5 percent less likely to vote, 13.1 percent less likely to serve on a jury or report a crime,10.9 percent less likely to volunteer their time to the community, and on average 26 percent less in annual wages ($43,938 vs $59,490) than those who grew up with their father in their home.
Now more than ever, there is an urgent need for both parents to be fully involved their children’s lives. Children with both of their parents present are better equipped to learn, self-regulate, develop healthy routines and relationships and make a difference in their communities – all necessary life skills for kids to reach their fullest potential and especially important in our current reality of social distance and disconnection.
It can be difficult, and often stressful, putting aside disagreements and relationship issues in order to work agreeably with your ex. Ultimately, both parents have to find a way to be cooperative and engage in making decisions mutually. It is my most sincere wish that all children are given the opportunity to benefit from both of their parents involvement so that they can grow into the best versions of themselves.
Jeffrey Scott Steiner, M. Ed. is the executive director of the Dads’ Resource Center, the only statewide youth advocacy organization that promotes the well-being and healthy development of children from separated or divorced families in Pennsylvania. For more information, visit: dadsrc.org.