COVID-19 has forever changed not only the United States but the world. If you’re a divorced parent, no doubt, you have a ton of questions about how to co-parent during this challenging time. How can you handle pickup and dropoff, if you permit the children to travel at all? What ramifications will changes in custody agreements for safety reasons have?
The most crucial thing to remember is, keeping your children safe is your number one priority. You can work out all other details once the crisis abates. For now, follow these nine guidelines to safeguard your family’s mental and physical health during the quarantine.
If your relationship with your ex contains significant drama, expect tensions to increase during this time. Fair or not, it falls upon your shoulders to maintain open and productive communication. Strive to keep things professional, and center your conversations around the children’s needs, not your adult frustrations.
Ask questions. When you speak with your ex, ask them to share relevant information, such as what the children work on for homeschool assignments at their house. Likewise, inform them of any upcoming appointments, particularly trips to the doctor. These can increase anxiety during this time due to the risk of contact with contaminated individuals.
Strive for Consistency
Your schedule may change during the quarantine. If you or your ex test positive for COVID-19, you will need to protect the kids above all. However, assuming that everyone remains healthy, try to stick to your children’s everyday schedule as much as possible. While you should check with your local ordinances, in general, you may exchange your child with the other parent during stay-home orders.
But Remain Flexible
That said, you do need to exercise sound judgments. For example, if your child comes down with the sniffles and a cough, they may have the coronavirus. Alternatively, they may have a typical cold or flu, or even seasonal allergies. The same goes for you and your ex. In general, if any of you have a fever, cough or shortness of breath, or if you had exposure to someone with the virus, you must self-quarantine for at least 14 days. This circumstance may mean turning down your weekend with the kiddos.
Keep Child Safety Paramount
Remember, the most critical aspect of managing this time is protecting your little one. Communicate openly with your spouse about things like supplies. Do you have enough hand sanitizer and soap for hygiene purposes? If one of you is low, can the other share resources?
Now more than ever, consistent rules matter. If one parent allows more screen time than the other while stuck inside, this can lead to tantrums. Talk about your mutual schedules and avoid deliberately antagonizing your ex-partner by letting the kids get away with murder to win their affection.
Protect Your Health, Too
Part of keeping your children healthy involves making positive choices for yourself, too.
- Don’t drink or smoke to excess: Hopefully, you don’t smoke around your children. However, pass on the urge to overindulge in vices like alcohol, even when you’re alone. Alcohol impacts the levels of the neurotransmitter GABA, which can affect decision-making for a considerable time.
- Exercise: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), you should take 30 minutes of exercise and get the kids moving for 60 minutes each day.
- Eat healthy meals: The right blend of phytonutrients and macronutrients helps to boost your immune system function.
Follow All State and National Guidelines
Even if you disagree with stay-at-home measures, it’s crucial to follow all local, state and federal guidelines on quarantine. You risk exposing other individuals if you break orders, and you can’t tell by looking at someone if they have an underlying health disorder. Have this dialogue with your children so that they understand that their actions could harm others, even if they feel fine.
Be Honest About Your Circumstances
It’s challenging to discuss financial and emotional struggles with an ex, but right now, you may need to do so. If you typically pay child support, but you find yourself out of work, discuss this with your co-parent. They should understand that you can’t get blood from a turnip and give you a break. If you lose a job, but they do not, they may need to pick up more of the financial slack to help. Discuss ways that you can repay them for their kindness after the crisis abates if you must, but remain transparent about your immediate needs for the sake of the kids. The same goes if you find your mental health fraying at the seams. Ask for extra help if you need it.
Remain Calm Around the Children
If you experience a flurry of emotions right now, guess what? You’re human. However, your children look to you for guidance and comfort. It’s crucial to remain calm in front of them. Reassure your children that they are safe and that this situation will eventually pass. Correct any misinformation gently.
Get a Bit Creative
Finally, you may need to get a bit creative to keep from going stir-crazy during this time. If you come up with any winning ideas on how to beat self-quarantine boredom, share them with your co-parent. Even if you feel animosity toward your ex, remember, two heads are better than one — as always, keep the needs of your children paramount.
Co-Parent Successfully Through This Challenging Quarantine
The quarantine rules associated with the COVID-19 pandemic create new challenges for co-parents. However, by following the tips above, you can survive this time while protecting your family’s physical and mental health.