Divorce and co-parenting are difficult under the best of circumstances. Add in a global pandemic, and stress levels are soaring for many families.
Co-parenting suddenly includes a host of new negotiations, complications, and plans to work out. If a parent or child gets sick, where should the kids go? Is there one set of rules for seeing friends or two? What if one parent is reliable about wearing a mask but the other isn’t? Questions like these can be extremely difficult, even for couples whose marriages ended amicably.
“When parents are good co-parents after separation or divorce, everyone wins. Good co-parenting is the factor that helps kids get through that family transition. And during COVID, that’s really ideal,” said child psychologist Annie Deming, PhD, clinical supervisor at Primary Children’s Center for Counseling. But when families are in a high-conflict situation and the relationship is damaged beyond repair, reaching an agreement may be almost impossible.
Here are some suggestions for surviving the pandemic as a co-parenting family:
With court orders, custody schedules, and drop-off agreements, co-parenting is often a very rigid situation. But the virus requires flexibility, says Dr. Deming. Job loss or changes at work for one parent may require the other parent to take (or give up) the kids when they normally wouldn’t. One parent may be set up better to accommodate online learning. Another parent may work in a high-risk situation or live with a high-risk individual and want to minimize the chance of passing on the infection. “It’s not about making sure that each person gets an equal amount of time. It’s about making things work for everyone,” she said.
Dr. Deming also urges families to remember that each situation is unique, and what works for one family might not work for your family.
The Academy of Pediatrics stresses the importance of good communication between co-parents during the pandemic and offers these tips:
- Answer all forms of communication (phone calls, texts, emails, etc.) with your co-parent in a timely manner.
- Enter each conversation with finding a solution together as your goal.
- Stay socially connected while physically distanced. Schedule virtual visits between your co-parent and your child. Set a time and make the child available for video calls.