Co-Parenting and Technology: COVID-19 in Wisconsin

Parent takes the temperature of their child with an ear thermometer.

Recently, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers released a "safe-at-home" order as a way to protect citizens from the rapidly-spreading virus, COVID-19. This order—currently in effect through April 24, 2020—has sparked questions for so many parents raising children from separate homes. This situation is new for all of us!

Face to face interaction is always best, but due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the use of technology for communication will be the new norm for the foreseeable future. Effective co-parenting can be achieved with some ingenuity, thought and a huge amount of patience. 

Here, I will detail several strategies that can support your co-parenting efforts throughout the duration of this crisis, including ways to talk to your kids about COVID-19, chatting with your co-parent, and tips for helping your kids learn at home.

Explaining the Situation to your Children

Talking to children about something as series as this pandemic may not be easy and finding new ways to manage shared parenting could prove challenging for some. For co-parents in Wisconsin, these tips may prove to be very useful throughout this crisis. 

Be truthful and speak to them at their level. Answer questions honestly but avoid overwhelming them with too much information. Inform your co-parent about the details you’ve discussed. A united front will ease your child’s mind.

There is so much information circulating on how to manage the virus. The goal here is fewer words, more information. 

Chatting with Your Co-Parent

Keeping each other informed is more important than ever. This is the ultimate call for cooperation. Here are a few tips for maintaining productive communication:

  1. Be calm. This is an anxious time for everyone.
  2. Be respectful. We all know what this means.
  3. Be precise. Embellishing the truth to create conflict is unnecessary.
  4. Be reasonable. Work together. Flexibility will be needed.
  5. Be proactive. Have a plan in mind should one of you become ill.
  6. Respond to the call/text/emails sent by your co-parent. Only play games with your children.
  7. Consider a co-parenting app such as OurFamilyWizard, one of the most detailed co-parenting apps available. It includes outstanding features to support co-parenting, including an easy-to-use calendar and expense tracking. It also includes documented messaging, plus a feature called ToneMeter to check the "vibe" of your messages before sending! Annual fees apply for parent accounts, but OurFamilyWizard offers free or discounted subscriptions to parents in financial need. They also offer a special discount for military families.

Put aside the petty conflicts and consider the big picture. The health and safety of your children outweigh any differences between you.

Options for Connecting Your Children With Their Other Parent, Friends and Extended Family

Keeping your children connected with their other parent and extended family is important, especially if they cannot physically be with those people due to complications related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It's also important to help your kids stay in touch with their friends throughout this crisis. Helping your kids touch base with other important people in their lives will help make the need to stay at home a bit easier.

Video chats using services like FaceTime, Google Duo and Skype are all good options when your kids want to speak face-to-face with your co-parent, grandparents, cousins, and friends. That said, basic video calls might not always be as fun as, say, watching a story together. Here are some apps that support more than just traditional video chatting:

  • Messenger Kids: A safer alternative for letting your children chat with others.
  • Caribu: Designed to help children have simple video chats with their grandparents. This app is free during the virus isolation period.
  • Netflix Party: This is for the older children to watch movies with their friends, virtually. Attached to the program is a group chat window to message friends.
  • Storyline Online: This website includes free audio books for children read by celebrities.
  • Free stories to read with your children. Stories may be read by multiple people at the same time!

Helping Your Children Learn at Home

Homeschooling is likely a very new situation that many families are finding themselves in. Help it go as smooth as possible by keeping a routine. Here are some tips for setting up a school-at-home schedule.

  1. Digital quarantine - Watch for excessive screen time on devices. Set limits.
  2. Make space for learning - A comfortable, quiet environment is necessary.
  3. Monitor the (computer) monitor - Be sure your child won’t be accessing any unwanted sites.
  4. Digital recess - Take short breaks!
  5. FaceTime - Keep in touch with other family members and friends with one of the many free, online options.
  6. We’re all in this together - You’re not alone! Seek help from others such as your children's teachers, close friends, and family members.
  7. Plan your work and work your plan - Whether the plan is for online learning or maintaining your household (and your sanity).
  8. Don’t forget to have fun! - There are many opportunities to do things together, if only virtually, for now.
  9. Explore online tutoring - Take advantage of the free tutoring help from St. Norbert College and UW-Oshkosh education students. First come, first serve! 

  10. Use supplemental learning toolsScholastic's website includes daily projects to help keep your kids learning. Also, the Cincinnati Zoo is offering virtual tours seven days a week so your kids can learn more about animals. 


Author's Bio:

Linda Tyrrell has been a professional family court mediator for Manitowoc County, Wisconsin since 2008. “Open, honest, respectful communication between parents fosters the same behavior in their children.”

Linda is also an animal advocate, rescuing lost or injured domestic and wildlife, including dogs, cats, rabbits, squirrels, possums, owls, hawks, geese and bats.

She can be reached at