I recognize that with the constantly changing COVID-19 situation, this is an unprecedented time for everyone—a time filled with much uncertainty. For parents working through a separation and/or divorce, this ever-changing environment adds another layer of potential anxiety to an already uneasy landscape. Add co-parenting to the mix and emotions can become overwhelming.
There is no handbook for co-parenting during a pandemic. However, as a student of custody and co-parenting best practices, and a Mom/Stepmom operating under two separate custody orders with five uniquely different children, I thought it would be helpful to share some co-parenting guidance during this trying time.
Take a moment to stop and breathe. Your child feels your energy and anxiety. It is important that you maintain a peaceful approach to parenting, and co-parenting. Maintaining a calm attitude will be challenging during this difficult time, so it is imperative that you give yourself opportunities to practice self-care as often as you can. Be gentle with yourself; ensuring your needs are met during this time of crisis can help you better manage caring for your children.
If meditation is something you have been wanting to practice, but have never tried, now is the time. Not only will it put you in a better place emotionally and psychologically, but you will also be modeling healthy coping skills. If meditation is not your thing, do something—anything—that takes you out of your head and turns your attention to your breath.
When you are operating from a place of calm, you will make better decisions based on facts rather than operating from a place of fear. And, again, you will be modeling healthy behavior for your children.
Stick to Your Custody Schedule. But, Be Flexible
During times of uncertainty, children need consistency and contact with both parents. So, unless there is a reason to deviate from your existing custody arrangement, I recommend you stick to the custody schedule in place. But, remain flexible, as things may come up or your child may have certain needs that should be considered.
For example, in our house, we decided that my three stepsons (who alternate one week with each parent) will go back to their Mom’s house for seven days. The boys, while still at risk, are healthy and have no additional risk factors; so, it was a collective decision that they should continue to follow the existing custody schedule.
Conversely, my two biological children will remain with us and not go to their Dad’s for his scheduled weekend, until we decide otherwise. We made this difficult, but necessary decision, because our otherwise young and healthy daughter has a history of respiratory issues. After weighing the pros and cons, we decided it was best that she not rotate between two households. This was not an easy decision, and I credit her Dad for putting our daughter’s well-being above his own self-interests.
Try to Keep the Same Daily Routine
As mentioned above, schedules and routines can give concerned kids a lot of security and reassurance during these difficult times. If you’re home with your child more during the day, try to set up a rough daily schedule and share it with your co-parent. Try and establish the same waking, sleeping, and mealtimes. Set up schedules for enjoying reading, music, art projects, backyard playtime, and so on. Keeping busy is good for everyone, especially if you’re sheltering in place or self-isolating for the next few days or weeks.
Maintain Open and Honest Communication with Your Co-Parent
If you feel ill or suspect you or your child may have been exposed to the coronavirus, share that information with your co-parent, immediately. If there is a change in your work schedule that is going to impact your custody schedule, communicate this to your co-parent as soon as possible, too. Try to be understanding and flexible in addressing issues as they pop up. Strive to use this time as an opportunity to come together in the face of adversity.
Stay Healthy, Stay Home, and Stay Informed
You’ve already heard this over and over, but washing your hands, keeping surfaces clean, and minimizing face-to-face social interaction is imperative. This is not the time to be scheduling playdates. Stay home! I cannot emphasize this enough. Limit your trips to the grocery store and if possible, leave your child at home. This will not only keep yourself and your family healthy—but, it will also prevent you or your child from carrying the coronavirus to environments where people with compromised immune systems may be infected.
Stay informed and in touch with reliable media sources, like the CDC and your state and local governments. Helpful resources include:
We’re Here to Help
If you have any legal questions about how your separation agreement or custody may be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, please give us a call at (980) 260-1600. Our Charlotte-based team is here to help you as we make our way through these uncharted waters.
The ROAD to RESOLUTION Divorce Blog can help you differentiate the fact from the fiction, and guide you towards the support you need during this difficult time. Use our resources and services to find all the info you need—from pre-divorce education to drafting essential legal documents. Please contact us today to find out more about how we can help you.
Note: This blog is intended to be informational only and shall not be construed as legal advice.