When something like the COVID-19 pandemic strikes, it further adds to the co-parenting complications. A blended family can’t necessarily abide by shelter-in-place recommendations, so what now?
Co-parenting can be challenging enough as it is. Divorced parents must juggle separate schedules and lifestyles while working to find some sense of consistency between two households.
As you adjust to this ‘new normal,’ there are certain measures you can take and practices you can integrate into your co-parenting routine for a safer, healthier, and happier result. Below, Natalie Baird Mediations & Collaborative Divorce is sharing five tips to make this season of life easier on everyone.
1. Focus on what you can control.
It’s a frustrating feeling when others won’t do what we’d like them to. In a time like this, there is so much that feels (and is) largely out of our control. It’s hard.
The truth is that coronavirus hasn’t changed any of the things you can’t control – they’re still as they were. And while the things we can’t control might be bigger and scarier than normal, they’re still out of our power.
What we can do is zoom in on the things we can control, and do our part to be the best parents, homeschool teachers, and people we can be. So while you can’t dictate how often your ex-husband is disinfecting the doorknobs at his house, you can control your own home’s cleanliness, for example.
Focus on things that are in your realm of power and do what you can to reduce the anxiety and worry that come with uncertainty.
2. When in doubt, over-communicate.
If it’s important to you to be on the same page as your ex, don’t assume anything. Be explicit when discussing any new adjustments to your current custody arrangement, go over any summer plans, and come to an agreement on how you’ll talk to your children about the pandemic.
When in doubt, err on the side of over-communicating rather than not saying enough. If you still feel unclear about something, don’t be afraid to ask questions for clarity. Finding this middle ground will help lessen the worry in both households.
3. Patience is a virtue.
Patience has always been a virtue, but it’s importance has become increasingly clear as of late. Understand that these are challenging circumstances for everyone – you’re not alone in the way you’re feeling. The more patience and empathy you can give, the smoother things will go.
Remember, the most important things right now are the health and wellbeing of your child. Keep animosity out of the conversations with your ex and focus on your common goal to reduce conflict.
4. Be practical, not power-hungry.
Most families are aiming to stick with their court-ordered custody agreements if possible. If no one in either household is showing symptoms, that’s probably a safe and smart thing to do. You could also come to an agreement about a new co-parenting schedule that works better under these circumstances.
However, if anyone becomes exposed to the coronavirus or develops symptoms, it’s time to become practical and focus on what’s best for everyone.
Being right or having more power in the situation is not what’s important. What’s important is everyone’s long-term safety. So if things change down the road, try to be flexible and willing to work with your ex rationally.
5. Stay virtually connected.
Spending more time at home without your children there might feel like a bummer, but you can always stay connected virtually no matter how far away you are. During the times that your children are with your ex, schedule Facetime check-ins or Zoom family game nights so you still feel involved. If your ex would like to do something similar, try to understand where they’re coming from.
While everyone is social distancing now, that doesn’t mean you have to be socially distant. Find ways to stay connected through these changes.
The Only Way Out is Through
While our current situation might feel like it will last forever, it won’t. The only way out of it is through, so find a rhythm and a routine that works for you and stick with it until things clear up. By staying patient, focusing on what you can control, and finding middle ground through communication, you can rise to meet the challenge of co-parenting during this pandemic.
Need more support? Find further resources on co-parenting during this time in the Natalie Baird Mediations & Collaborative Divorce blog.