During this unprecedented time of the Coronavirus and quarantines, many co-parents are finding themselves in un-charted territory with regards to their parenting plan and whether and how they should carry it out.
Here are some helpful hints for co-parenting during the coronavirus crisis:
Be open, communicative, creative and flexible!
This is a time like no other, so we need to be open, we need to be flexible, and we need to get creative and think outside the box.
If you have a parenting plan that is requiring something that can’t be done (or can’t be done safely at this time, like air travel), get creative. But first, communicate!
Reach out to the other parent and brainstorm. Can the visit be delayed, or time added onto the next visit? Can you do virtual visits with Zoom, Facetime or Skype where the kids can eat a meal, play a game or just chat with the other parent?
If you have a parenting plan that can be carried out, but you question the safety, communicate your fears. Research suggests that the Coronavirus is not generally dangerous for children, but reach out to your pediatrician if you are unsure or if your child has immune compromising factors and then discuss with your parenting partner.
Once again, communicate, be flexible and get creative!
If it is not advised to make frequent visits, perhaps the visit duration is lengthened, and the frequency is lessened. Or maybe you do a mix of virtual and in person visits, or meet in a safe outdoor space to go hiking, play soccer or be in nature together.
Do not operate out of fear
There is a huge amount of panic and fear surrounding this situation, which is bringing up deeply buried fear from past circumstances and triggering internal and external defense mechanisms of all kinds. Notice the space you are operating and making decisions from. If you are operating out of fear, take a break to process your feelings before you move forward with decision making or discussing with your co-parent.
Take several deep breaths and re-center, releasing all of the fear you may have taken on from the media or others around you. Breathe through any personal fears that you have. Notice what fear or feelings are coming up for you that may not be related to the current issue. Be with all of your feelings and allow them to move through your body. Once you are more centered, make decisions from a grounded, clear space.
What can we do to help our children cope with missed visits?
Be honest with them about what is happening. Let them know that Mom or Dad really wants to see them, but it isn’t safe right now, so you will do whatever you can to find ways for them to connect (see above with virtual visits, outdoor meetups, etc.) and then do it.
Find ways for your child to connect with them even if they can’t connect in real life. You can help them create a card, letter or other work of art to send in the mail, write a song or a poem, or teach them how to connect energetically. This can be done through an imaginary hug, a special prayer, or a dream meet-up where as they fall asleep they think of a place they want to meet their Mom, Dad or other loved one in their dream, and what they want to do together. We often use the beach or Disneyland for our dream meet-ups! They can also have imaginary visits where you would ask what they would want to do and what they would want to say to their other parent if they were there.
Keeping communication open and finding ways to connect helps your kiddo feel like the other parent is being included and is top of mind even though they can’t be together and it will help them feel more secure.
What if we don’t agree?
If you and your co-parent cannot agree, or you do not have a co-parent who is willing to be flexible and creative with you, do what you can on your side. If you have a written parenting plan as part of a divorce or other legal agreement, you will need to make reasonable efforts to carry it out if they are demanding that you do so.
Try to engage help in the form of a family counselor, pastor, mediator or co-parenting coach if you need help trying to reach an amended agreement for the short term.
And remember, as Wayne Dyer said, “Conflict cannot survive without your participation.” Don’t engage in anything other than a peaceful, direct discussion and process through any emotions or triggers on your side that come up as a result of something your co-parent is saying or doing.
The only thing you can ever control is yourself and how you react to others. In this time of fear and frenzy, don’t make it worse by adding to it.
Please Note: This should not be considered legal or medical advice. Please contact your attorney for guidance on required visits and your doctor for any medical questions regarding the safety of visits.
Monica Daniels says
This has been a challenging COVID19 journey regarding coparenting with my son’s father. It is sad during this time people still choose to hold on to pain. This is the time to heal and put children first. I have been dealing with someone that refuses to effectively coparent for 5 years. I continue to walk in faith and pray for my son when he is gone and make the adjustments when he returns. I am praying for change. The lack of coparenting is not healthy for my son.
Anna Demouchet says
I’m so sorry that you dealing with this, but it sounds like you are doing what you can and putting your son first, which will help him in so many ways. I’m so glad he has you in his life. Blessings! Anna
Tinisha Howard says
I do not have social media. I have no interest in it. But I have been wanting to see how others are dealing with co-parenting at this time. I keep a very clean home. I’m very cautious of my children going anywhere and I keep sanitizer on me daily, going to grocery store, etc. But I do not like having the kids go back and forth to dad’s visits. He doesn’t communicate and I dont know how that house is ran or quarantined. This is unfair and unhealthy at this time. But we have a court order. I feel helpless!
Anna Demouchet says
I’m so sorry you’re feeling helpless. Although you cannot control what happens at their father’s house, you can teach your children what they need to be healthy and give them the tools they need to do well in any environment.
Sending blessings for you and your children,
Thank you for your blog. I share custody with a narcissist parent. He let’s his neighbor lady and her kids in and out of his house. My daughter who is 13, is exposed to this and I know she hides the truth from me because she doesn’t want me to engage in conversation with my ex. I always make it factual and keep emotions out of issues that have risen in the past. However, my daughter gets the brunt of the argument from my ex. My daughter is of normal health. I’m a little concerned of the lack of knowledge about the virus and my ex’s whereabout as well. I sent him a text a couple weeks ago worried about the dangers of this virus and he never responded to me. What would be some suggestions on how to handle the situation at hand. Thanks
Anna Demouchet says
Thank you for your question. I’m sorry you’re in such a difficult situation with not knowing how this is being handled and zero communication from her father.
It sounds like she feels stuck in the middle, so first, I would have a conversation with her about the situation and let her know that she doesn’t have to share any details about her time at her Dad’s, but whatever she does want to share she can do so without worrying about backlash from either side. For example, if she tells you something that you feel like needs to be addressed, you can talk with her about ways that it might be handled that would still be comfortable for her, and allowing her to ask you not to follow up with him assuming there is no real threat or danger to her in doing this. The most important factor is that she does not feel like she’s put in the middle.
You can also empower her to speak up on her own when issues arise, like when he gives her the “brunt of the argument”. You can teach her to speak up respectfully and kindly and ask that he speak to you about these issues rather than to her, and teach her how to take space if she needs it. For example, “Dad, it makes me sad/uncomfortable when you [insert issue here], please speak to Mom about this. I’m going to take a break in my room.” and have her excuse herself.
If you feel there is a real danger, you could reach out to him again and ask if you can discuss the current health issues. If he feels like you are trying to control what he does in his house and tell him how to parent, he will not be receptive (even if that’s not what you are doing). You may be better served by asking for his opinion of the situation and what he thinks would be helpful to put in place (“I’d love your perspective on the current health crisis and what you feel would be helpful to have in place / how you are handling it at your house.”).
Also, I would always suggest using email as the primary way to communicate with an helpful partner, as it’s more formal and track-able.
For now, it may be enough to teach your daughter how to navigate the current environment safely regardless of where she is, but use your judgement. This is also a very in depth topic, so feel free to email me at [email protected] if you need more personal and direct guidance.
Blessings to you and your daughter,