During this unprecedented time of the Coronavirus and quarantines, many co-parents are finding themselves in un-charted territory with regards to their parenting plan and whether and how they should carry it out.
Here are some helpful hints for co-parenting during the coronavirus crisis:
Be open, communicative, creative and flexible!
This is a time like no other, so we need to be open, we need to be flexible, and we need to get creative and think outside the box.
If you have a parenting plan that is requiring something that can’t be done (or can’t be done safely at this time, like air travel), get creative. But first, communicate!
Reach out to the other parent and brainstorm. Can the visit be delayed, or time added onto the next visit? Can you do virtual visits with Zoom, Facetime or Skype where the kids can eat a meal, play a game or just chat with the other parent?
If you have a parenting plan that can be carried out, but you question the safety, communicate your fears. Research suggests that the Coronavirus is not generally dangerous for children, but reach out to your pediatrician if you are unsure or if your child has immune compromising factors and then discuss with your parenting partner.
Once again, communicate, be flexible and get creative!
If it is not advised to make frequent visits, perhaps the visit duration is lengthened, and the frequency is lessened. Or maybe you do a mix of virtual and in person visits, or meet in a safe outdoor space to go hiking, play soccer or be in nature together.
Do not operate out of fear
There is a huge amount of panic and fear surrounding this situation, which is bringing up deeply buried fear from past circumstances and triggering internal and external defense mechanisms of all kinds. Notice the space you are operating and making decisions from. If you are operating out of fear, take a break to process your feelings before you move forward with decision making or discussing with your co-parent.
Take several deep breaths and re-center, releasing all of the fear you may have taken on from the media or others around you. Breathe through any personal fears that you have. Notice what fear or feelings are coming up for you that may not be related to the current issue. Be with all of your feelings and allow them to move through your body. Once you are more centered, make decisions from a grounded, clear space.
What can we do to help our children cope with missed visits?
Be honest with them about what is happening. Let them know that Mom or Dad really wants to see them, but it isn’t safe right now, so you will do whatever you can to find ways for them to connect (see above with virtual visits, outdoor meetups, etc.) and then do it.
Find ways for your child to connect with them even if they can’t connect in real life. You can help them create a card, letter or other work of art to send in the mail, write a song or a poem, or teach them how to connect energetically. This can be done through an imaginary hug, a special prayer, or a dream meet-up where as they fall asleep they think of a place they want to meet their Mom, Dad or other loved one in their dream, and what they want to do together. We often use the beach or Disneyland for our dream meet-ups! They can also have imaginary visits where you would ask what they would want to do and what they would want to say to their other parent if they were there.
Keeping communication open and finding ways to connect helps your kiddo feel like the other parent is being included and is top of mind even though they can’t be together and it will help them feel more secure.
What if we don’t agree?
If you and your co-parent cannot agree, or you do not have a co-parent who is willing to be flexible and creative with you, do what you can on your side. If you have a written parenting plan as part of a divorce or other legal agreement, you will need to make reasonable efforts to carry it out if they are demanding that you do so.
Try to engage help in the form of a family counselor, pastor, mediator or co-parenting coach if you need help trying to reach an amended agreement for the short term.
And remember, as Wayne Dyer said, “Conflict cannot survive without your participation.” Don’t engage in anything other than a peaceful, direct discussion and process through any emotions or triggers on your side that come up as a result of something your co-parent is saying or doing.
The only thing you can ever control is yourself and how you react to others. In this time of fear and frenzy, don’t make it worse by adding to it.
Please Note: This should not be considered legal or medical advice. Please contact your attorney for guidance on required visits and your doctor for any medical questions regarding the safety of visits.