This year has thrown most of us into a tailspin, with the global COVID-19 pandemic upsetting how everyone works, lives and parents.
As if co-parenting weren’t already challenging! Parents are reeling from workplace layoffs, reduced income, travel bans and fears of contracting the virus (or dying from it!), and as a result, we are seeing several patterns in co-parenting.
Pattern #1: The Emotional Roller Coaster
Adults have new responsibilities and new ways of doing things, whether working from home with kids in the background or growing exhausted from being online all day. It’s stressful, especially for single parents!
This leads to heightened emotional responses. Some parents held it together initially. Others are finding the current crisis triggers past traumas. Many people are regressing into an emotional space they long ago left behind.
And, some people are responding in really amazing ways. Some people feed off crises and can stay calm in a storm. I’ve seen some families who had a rough time co-parenting prior to COVID realize the seriousness of the crisis and put their personal stuff aside to come together really well.
Regardless of which camp you fit into, here’s how to deal with increased tension in your co-parenting relationship during COVID:
- Focus on the kids. How are they doing? How can both parents help them through this time? Make your children your focus – not the pandemic, not your fears, not the what-ifs and the unknowns.
- Abandon old patterns of communicating. Carve out a new way; after all, this is a new time!
- Leave emotion out of it. Co-parenting is a NEW relationship. Both participants have an opportunity to create a new dynamic – and why not choose to get along, as colleagues or neighbors? After all, you share a common goal: the well-being of your children!
Pattern #2: Everything Happens at Home
Did you ever imagine you’d be working from home, parenting 24/7, and guiding your children through online school?
Most people could not have imagined such a scenario – and yet, here we are! Many Co-Parenting Solutions clients are juggling all of this and more – and it is not easy.
In some families, parents need to find work. Many families have parents working from home.
And, the last three months of the school year happened from home, too, causing a perfect co-parenting storm. While we love our children, being “on” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is challenging for anyone –even moreso for parents who may not get along well in normal times.
How to deal with work-parenting-school-at-home during COVID:
- Accept imperfection. The house won’t be as clean as you like. You won’t be as focused as you would be in the office. The children may not complete all schoolwork in the way you’d prefer – or at all. It’s OK.
- Suspend some of the rules – but not all! Breakfast for dinner. Ice cream for lunch. Bedtime out the window. This is a time to recognize we cannot control much of what’s swirling around us. So don’t try to. It’s ok to have some flexibility as long as some routines are established. Allow yourself to establish new routines in this time, to suit the circumstances. There must be balance – not rigidity!
- Be kind to yourself FIRST. In stressful times, self-care is the top priority. Every parent must carve out time each day for quiet. When your children go to the other parent, breathe deeply and take a walk. Use that time not only to catch up on work, but to rejuvenate. You’ll be a better parent – and a better co-parent – for it.
Challenge #3: We don’t all believe the same things about COVID.
Mom is masking up, avoiding restaurants and not allowing playdates, while Dad thinks the pandemic is a hoax and prefers backyard parties with dozens of people in close proximity.
Many parents hold different opinions about the pandemic, and it’s hard when those parents are not united in the same house.
Co-parents often hold differing views. But when one parent believes the key to keeping their family safe is quarantine, hand sanitizer and masks around other people, while the other parent does not follow the same strictures, what to do?
Parents usually believe they’re doing the best for their family – even when “best” looks very different.
How to deal with different opinions about COVID:
- Talk it out. We worked with a family where mom relaxed a little in her strictures while dad became more sensitive to mom’s fears about the virus. Being open to conversation about your viewpoints is key. If you can’t facilitate the conversation on your own, work with a neutral third party (like us!) to guide a productive talk.
- Stay off social media. It’s hard not to spend our days scrolling, but limiting your exposure to news, especially on social media, will give you the breathing room to think clearly. Build perspectives on factual information, as opposed to quick opinions from social posts. If it helps, turn to your doctor for guidance.
- Don’t make rash decisions. We are all uncomfortable right now! While it might feel like the right thing to get on a plane and take a vacation, or send the kids out to play, think it through and take time before making decisions that impact others.
As with any co-parenting challenges, we are here to help. If you’re struggling due to the pandemic, click here to schedule a consultation call.