Parenting together-but-separately is stressful under the best of circumstances. Your children are going back and forth. They are being introduced to people you may not know. They come home from your ex’s house with a bad case of sass mouth, and you immediately think they got it from their other house.
But let me say, there’s nothing like a pandemic to shine a light on all the shit you actually don’t have in order. Chances are, your divorce decree probably didn’t cover adhering to CDC guidelines if there is an outbreak of COVID-19.
Staying on the same page in times like these is imperative, whether you get along or not. It’s a time when you need to be consistent for your children so they feel safe and know what to expect.
There’s also a decent chance that you handle a crisis differently than your ex — after all, you are divorced for a reason. This is the case with my ex-husband and myself. He is someone who was onto this months ago. My kids came home and said he’d stocked the basement with canned goods and spent $300 on frozen foods. He was ready for a lockdown. He watches the news a lot more than I do and I (grudgingly) had to admit he was more informed than I was — but I thought he was overreacting.
I had a talk with him and let him know that while I was glad he was preparing and being cautious, I thought he was scaring the kids by talking about it so much. He got a bit defensive, but then shared his concerns and let me know he thought there were too many people in our country who were ignoring the important information. Since then, we’ve kept an open dialogue about it.
I’m thankful this has been the height of our trouble thus far since the outbreak. I know I’m lucky because a lot of co-parenting couples are really struggling during this time. It’s hard to know what’s the right thing for you and your family. Everything feels heightened, and our emotions are playing a big role in how we deal with things, as they should.
After all, we are talking about the health and wellbeing of our children in a time when our lives are being turned upside down. It’s a literal pandemic. It’s terrifying and stressful.
Scary Mommy talked with Robin Lalley, Principal of Sodoma Law York, who shared some wonderful tips and guidelines for co-parenting right now, so you can focus on what’s in the best interest of your children.
First, Lalley says, “You should keep the custody schedules and other provisions related to exchange of the children, sharing of information, access to the children by phone, etc. as mandated in your current Custody Order or Agreement.”
That doesn’t mean something won’t come up where there may have to be some small changes. But if there is a big adjustment needed, Lalley reminds us that many lawyers are offering virtual services during this time and can help you navigate any major changes.
Communication is more crucial now than ever before. Lalley says now is the time to err on the side of over-communication. “Parents should notify each other if the child or anyone they’ve come in contact with has been exposed to the coronavirus or displays symptoms.”
My ex and I text a few times a day checking in on our kids’ school work and how they seem to be feeling — not just physically, but emotionally. It’s working for us, and keeps us feeling comfortable and informed.
Lalley also adds that if one parent is social distancing and the other isn’t, the parent who is distancing likely isn’t going to be effective at convincing the other parent to change their ways. That can be scary and stressful for the family who is choosing to adhere to CDC guidelines. Especially if there are other children, or a high-risk person, who also lives in the home. If you are concerned, she advises you to direct all questions and concerns to your lawyer, so they can contact opposing counsel and give insight into creative ways to resolve these disputes.
And most importantly, Lalley advises being flexible during this time when kids are learning from home and parents are working from home. This is obviously impossible in some situations, as certain c0-parenting dynamics are not conducive to compromise.
For now, my ex-husband and I are both practicing social distancing in our respective homes and mostly adhering to our normal schedule. Since I get to be with my kids all day long as I work from home, my ex has asked if I could drop them off earlier on his nights with them. While it’s hard for me, it also gives me a break after working a full day while assuming the role of temporary homeschool teacher.
Lalley reminds us we aren’t living in the same reality we were before. Flexibility and teamwork are more critical now than ever. “Remember, the comfort and care of your children are still the number one priority. This may mean giving up some parenting time with kids, or stepping up to do more than you have done in the past.”
And don’t hesitate to use tools available to you — your therapist, attorney, or parenting coordinator. The main goal here is to keep things running as smoothly as possible for you and your children. Remember, it takes two of you to do that.