During the COVID-19 pandemic, divorced or separated families realize that previously stable arrangements might not survive the issues of the disease, social distancing, and home quarantine. And for families with high-conflict divorce and custody arrangements, the pandemic might be amplifying existing conflicts and creating new issues.
While COVID-19 adds to the stresses of co-parenting, it can also encourage parents to overcome their issues and work together to establish a new parenting plan. Also, partner with your divorce attorneys to work out special COVID-19 considerations for your family.
Renegotiating Your Parenting Plan
You and your former spouse probably had a sensible co-parenting strategy before the pandemic. But since you have to overcome the COVID-19 crisis, you might have to rethink your plan to accommodate social distancing and stay-at-home measures.
No matter what your opinion is, there should be a way both for both parents to spend time with their children and prioritize their safety.
When creating a plan, discuss the following questions with your former partner:
- What will you do if you or your child gets sick and has to be quarantined?
- How will exchanges safely occur during the pandemic? What are your contingency plans?
- How do your work schedules affect your availability?
- How can you address prolonged school closings?
- How can you support your children’s distance learning?
This way, you prevent conflict. Plus, it promotes a sense of balance and stability, which your children need during the pandemic.
Prioritize Clear Communication
During the revision of your parenting plan, you might disagree with your ex on several aspects of the plan. Each person has a different parenting style, especially when it comes to the risks associated with COVID-19 and distance learning.
For instance, you probably feel strongly about restricting your kids’ social interactions, but your ex is open to the idea of socialization during the pandemic. How do you reach a compromise?
Contact your former spouse and discuss the pros and cons of each method. But you must be open to the idea that you might not reach an agreement.
Accept that there are some things you can’t control, such as the actions of your ex-spouse. Also, refrain from speaking ill of the other parent and their choices. Doing so will just upset the kids and make the situation more painful for them.
If you feel your conversations are unproductive, convey your thoughts through an e-mail. It enables you to say what you want without being triggered or interrupted. But don’t expect your ex-spouse to change their perspective. Express your needs and ask for understanding.
When all else fails, consult a person outside the family, such as a therapist. They can help you and your former spouse understand the things that obstruct your agreement.
Always be transparent about the whereabouts of the children. After all, seeing friends or frequenting pharmacies or grocery elevate your risk of exposure. While both parents are not obliged to report all of their itineraries, they should still update each other by providing a list of where the kids have been and the people they came into contact with (e.g., extended family and caregivers).
Manage Safety Concerns
If you are concerned for the kids’ safety as they spend time with your former spouse or your ex-spouse has concerns with the kids being with you, discuss safety measures you practice at each other’s home. If you and your ex-spouse have communication issues, accept that they are responsible for the children’s safety during their time.
If you have serious safety concerns, seek emergency concerns. If you suspect your spouse is neglecting or abusing the children, get in touch with child protection agencies.
Establish a Creative Structure
With so many transitions happening due to the pandemic and your separation, the kids need a reliable schedule. Consistency promotes security, which encourages a feeling of calm — a critical need during periods of uncertainty brought on by the pandemic.
Partner with your ex-spouse in creating a schedule that prioritizes school and still incorporates different activities for skill-building, relaxation, and bonding. Reorganizing what your children need can alleviate some of the stress due to distance learning and social distancing.
A crisis like COVID-19 can throw plans into confusion, which can be discouraging and frustrating for you and your former spouse. Instead of worrying (which can fuel conflict between you and your ex-spouse), acknowledge the uncertainty and work around it.
Everyone is adapting to the new normal during the pandemic. It’s best to put set your differences aside for the meantime and partner with your ex-spouse in co-parenting.