As a nation, and as a world, we are facing uncharted territory. This pandemic has forced us to drastically change our lives, and many of us are left wondering what to do and how to cope. If you are a divorced parent, co-parenting with your ex-spouse can be an added pressure and challenge to overcome. You want to protect your children and help them understand their world, while presenting a united front with their other parent. Here are some tips to help you as you navigate these next few weeks.
1. Remind your child of how much you love them.
It’s important to never assume that your children know how much they mean to you. Remind them everyday that you love them and that you are there to protect them. Children dealing with divorce often have overactive nervous systems, and may be on high alert. This can be heightened during times of stress and anxiety, such as a forced quarantine. They are constantly searching for signs of danger, so it’s important to give them extra signs of security and love. Shower them with specific praise and affection.
2. Create a schedule that includes quality time.
Now that parents are working from home and kids are out of school, it can be challenging to create a routine and balance work and family life, especially if you are the only parent in the home. Start by creating a family schedule that meets everyone’s needs. Include time for you to work while the kids entertain themselves and quality time together as a family. Try to limit your child’s screen time, but don’t be afraid to use it as a tool when you need to sit down and work. Post the schedule where everyone can see, and set timers to remind you to move on to the next item on the list.
3. Be flexible.
Flexibility is key in any co-parent situation, but especially in times of crisis and change. If both parents find themselves working from home, you may need to adjust your parenting plan so that both parents have adequate time to work during the week. As conflicts or challenges arise, communicate carefully with your co-parent to make sure you are on the same page. Remember that, eventually, things will go back to normal. In the meantime, work together to do what is best for your children.
4. Be safe.
One of the most important things to remember is that our nation is facing a health crisis. This is not something to be taken lightly. Follow the guidelines set out by the government and do everything in your power to avoid spreading the disease. This includes limiting your social interaction. If you normally have a conversation with your ex-spouse when you drop off the kids, be sure to stay at least 6 feet away. Make sure the whole family is thoroughly washing their hands, and limiting contact with people in public. Explain the importance of these guidelines to your children to make sure everyone is on board.
5. Take care of yourself.
This is a stressful time in the lives of many families. Finding a new “normal” can be exhausting. Make sure to schedule time for you to recharge and relax. The best way to take care of the people around you is by taking care of yourself as well.
This is new territory for all us, so it’s okay to feel lost and confused. And it’s okay to have bad days. Just remember that those bad days don’t define your parenthood, and your kids still think you are doing a great job. When this is all over, they won’t remember the days you lost your temper or the times they had to watch extra tv while you worked, they will remember the quality time they got to spend with their mom or dad and the memories they made at home together.