The arrival of coronavirus is changing many aspects of our lives, including the way we co-parent our children. As if there wasn’t already enough uncertainty, families that co-parent children are likely to have their own unique set of challenges to contend with during this time. Part of this is that social isolation looks different to different people (you and your ex, for example) and if children are moving from one household to another, you may find yourself wondering what you can do to make these transitions as smooth as possible.
The following are ten tips from a licensed therapist which aim to help you and your ex navigate shared custody during the coronavirus quarantine.
- Be patient. This is a challenging situation for everyone. The more generous you are with yourself and with others, the smoother things (including conversations with an ex) are likely to go. The most important thing right now is the health and well-being of your child; the less conflict, the better.
- Be flexible. Work hours, school schedules, family trips, and social calendars have all been affected. Because of this, custody agreements, the time each parent is able to spend with the children, and/or child support payments may need to be altered. Stay flexible and do your best to work with one another. Make short-term compromises with the understanding to find long-term solutions later.
- Stay healthy and safe. Follow the CDC guidelines for washing hands, wiping down surfaces, and social distancing. If one parent has signs of COVID-19 or may have been exposed to COVID-19, work with each other to find ways to keep everyone healthy and safe.
- Be kind (and don’t sweat the small stuff). Now is the perfect time for you and your ex to get on the same team and adopt an “it’s us against the virus” attitude. The more we understand and support one another, the better.
- Be honest. Whether it’s changing work hours, a need to renegotiate child support, or a possible exposure to COVID-19, transparency can go a long way towards problem-solving. Be honest with your children as well; let them know that circumstances are likely to continue to change and that you will keep them informed as decisions are made and schedules created.
- Tread carefully. Think and rethink about what conversations are really necessary right now. If you feel upset or frustrated, let those emotions pass before you pick up the phone or send an angry email. Now more than ever, your kids need you to stay calm and grounded. Children pick up on the energy between their parents, so be aware of how you are acting. Your job as a parent is to ease their anxiety, not add to it.
- Be practical. If no one is showing symptoms of COVID-19, stick to court-ordered custody agreements whenever possible. However, if one household has been exposed to the coronavirus or a member of the family is showing symptoms, be practical about what is best for your children. This isn’t about being right or having more power, it’s about what is safest for everyone involved.
- Overcommunicate. Right now, it’s more important than ever for you and your ex to be on the same page. Talk about schedules, hygiene protocols, and what you are telling the kids about the current health pandemic. Err on the side of too much communication rather than not enough, and ask questions when something is unclear.
- When necessary, get it in writing. With so many changes happening at such a rapid pace, it may be a good idea to have an attorney draft up a written agreement with the temporary changes for both of you to sign.
- Get through it. Now is not the time for small arguments or bickering; now is the time to band together and get through this. Do your part to make this whole situation as smooth as possible so that when you look back on this time, you remember how gracefully you navigated the changes.
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