Parenting during “normal” times can be difficult enough. Add the stress, panic and fear of a pandemic and co-parenting can go completely nuclear. I have been addressing parenting issues on how to co-parent during this crisis for the last several weeks. And, having helped parents manage their co-parenting plans for almost 15 years, I have made up five guidelines to help you co-parent successfully at this time.
- Be open and transparent. Present your concerns, fears and understanding of the crisis in a respectful manner. But express what you will reasonably expect of each other during this time.
- Be honest about your actual or possible exposure to COVID-19, and work with each other in a non-judgmental way. The purpose is to keep the children safe as you first determine and then declare your status. Keep in mind that if you or the co-parent is a first responder, you may have to repeat this scenario several times.
- Develop stay-at-home protocols. These are the routines which should be the same in both houses. Focus on creating a plan on which you both can agree and follow, from handwashing to the types of outdoor activities in which the children can participate, etc. Just remember that your goal is to have consistency across the two homes so that the children know what to expect at each household and are not confused about how to act in either home.
- Keep the lines of communication open. The news is changing rapidly these days, so it is necessary that you remain open to frequent and meaningful communication about testing, exposure to COVID-19, the need to travel, etc. Now more than ever is the time to recover the commonality which brought you together in the first place and to harness that commonality to create meaningful yet non-judgmental conversations about how you will ensure your well-being as well as the health and safety of your family.
- Keep the children at the center of your consideration. While you must keep your children at the core of your thought, you must also be mindful that they are, after all, children. Therefore, keep them out of your direct and decision-making communications with the co-parent. Remember, you are jumping through all of these hoops the pandemic has thrust upon us all, but your children must still remain at the center of all of your efforts. So, for their sakes, it is important that you do not include them in the substance of your adult conversations. The only thing your children need to know is that their parents have a relationship which undeniably and demonstrably promotes their best interests—which includes their health and safety.