Co-parenting During Covid-19

 

During this pandemic, countless parents are under pressure, with children at home, without daycare, school, freedom, lessons, other activities and not seeing friends and relatives.  Not easy.  If you are on the verge of divorce or living apart or divorced, family life is even more complicated and difficult.  But, it is doable!  First, be healthy and well informed.

Co-parenting during Covid-19  requires patience, thoughtfulness and flexibility…for couples with children of all ages.  Since court systems are presently available for essential cases only, you are on your own to work through things with your co- parent. Talk about the realities of each home and which parent might best accommodate the needs of the children. Remember, it would not be permanent.   Shifting to a summer schedule, if possible might it easier on all.

Communication is key to provide the best environment for your children to feel safe and connected to you both.  Keep your co-parent honestly informed about what’s happening in your home.  Are you still employed?  If your income has been affected, and you pay alimony, etc., give reasonable notice and explanation.  If you are the receiver of funds, make him/her aware of your efforts to make things work with hardship.   Discuss how you each feel about our new situation and try to establish ways to cope with the challenges.   Create a plan if either of you – or the children – become ill.   Be careful with grandparents as they are more vulnerable.  Try to choose back-ups you are both comfortable with if there is a need for them to step in quickly and safely.

In this topsy-turvy world, it is crucial to have two calm, steady and predictable parents.  Provide structure, routine and continuity in both homes.  Protect your offspring from listening to the news but be available to listen to their concerns.  Offer age-appropriate explanations.  Be clear, with each other and the children, about new ‘rules’ and some new, but temporary, exceptions.  Yes, they are going to miss friends and  activities and want and need more screen time.  It’s okay…for now.   Be creative and encourage connection with the other parent, via phone, facetime, zoom, to talk, play games, read books together.

Enjoy your progeny but find ways to treat yourself – conversations with loved ones and friends, a luxurious bath or special book when you can create a quiet time.  As you remind your children, remember this is not forever and the gains you make with the other parent can last longer than the pandemic.

Pandemic Co-parenting

 

Separated?  Divorced  With children?  When getting together, or marrying, and having children, most couples never imagined coming apart.  Yet it happens.  Situations occur, feelings change and separation or divorce becomes a reality.  Whether you, or he or she, wanted not to live with each other, you had to decide how to share your children.  Being without your children, at times, having different parenting styles , feeling strongly, one way or another, about each other are just some of the mountains to climb to ensure your children’s physical and emotional well-being. It’s not easy and, for some, monumentally difficult.   A comprehensive Parenting Plan, followed by both parents, makes life more predictable and stable for all.

Enter a pandemic.  How does life change?   No school, no friends, no movies, teams, and many other no’s.   Is one parent at home now, without a job?  Does the other parent have a strategic job they can’t leave at this time?    Is a stepparent the only one at home during work hours?Do both parents agree on observing stringent safety precautions and how to cope with limitations on lifestyle?  Are there parental or child health issues that need to be addressed?  These are just some issues that can provoke a reasonable co-parenting situation, not to mention those who are still struggling.

Please read:

Health first

Stay informed and be sure your children are following reliable CDC local and state guidelines for hand washing.  Model that behavior and wipe down surfaces and frequently touched surfaces as well as social distancing.

Be Available and clear

Calmly explain the situation, in an age appropriate manner, to each of your children, but protect them from media coverage.  Be open to answering their questions truthfully, at their level.  Help with a discussion and some explanation or possible solutions to their concerns.

Respect

Follow court orders as much as possible.  Don’t be emotional when communicating with the other parent.   Keep it to ‘business’ when you have differences,,,just the facts please.   Consider their thoughts and feelings.

Be Forthcoming

Share, honestly with each other, what you have and have not been doing relating to this situation. Protecting your children from exposure needs to be primary.  Listening and understanding of the other parent is also a gift to your child.

 Work hard

Be diligent in working together for the safety of your children. Make reasonable accommodations to keep stability but be flexible, always putting your children’s needs for physical safety and emotional comfort first.  These unusual times will be imprinted in their memories.  You have the power to affect some of those memories.   When older, your child will note and appreciate your cooperative co-parenting, even in difficult times.  They love you both…support that.

Play fair

Try to note and understand what this predicament  means to your co-parent.Are they out of work and need to pay child support?  Are you the recipient of that?  If so, can you endure or offer some ‘wiggle’ room to the other parent?If you are financially better off, can you be generous, ad settle things later? It will affect your child.

Knowing  and doing what’s right for your children will engender more calm in yourself.  Being an effective and protective parent is of the highest order.  Be there and be proud!

 

 

 

Coronavirus…..Not Just About The Body

There is a deluge of information about the coronavirus –  how we might get it and what it can do to us.  Stay home, as much as possible, wash hands often and well, avoid others…six feet, etc.  Protect your body, those of your family, older parents, stay in touch with friends.

Cabin fever may be setting in, accompanied by loneliness, for some,  or too much constant contact with family members for others.  The persistent clamor of what to do, or not, and what to expect, the numbers….how many have it, how many have died, the stock market, loss of jobs.  The uncertainty about when it will come to our community, when it could subside.  To say this is a stressful time is a bold understatement!

Continue to be diligent and keep your body healthy but  remember to pay attention to what is going on in your head.  Are you sinking into despair, focusing on all of the negatives and anticipating the worst?

There is a considerable mind/body connection so both need tending.  Conscious work to  recognize and appreciate what we do have, can lift spirits and help to  better adapt to the current situation.  Please consider some of the following:

  1. If you have good health, enjoy it and know do your  very best to maintain it.
  2. Stop and smell those roses; maybe you were too busy to see them before.
  3. Contact friends and family.  Human connection is essential for most of us.  Reach out, call, text, email, send pictures.
  4. Losing some aspects of our lives may help to appreciate them more.  It’s not the things.  Was there too much emphasis on getting and having more?
  5. Experiences  are invaluable.  Revisit old ones, alone, or with others.  Ponder  how to create new ones.  Be creative in your own personal way.
  6. Building memories now.  How would you like to recall this period in the future?
  7. This, too will pass so look forward contemplate future projects.
  8. reflect on joys of the past, deal logically with the present and “see” the wonder of what you would like in the future.

There will be a future!  This phase can be a learning tool to someday remind yourself that you did it and will be able to deal with whatever blows your way.

Wishing you all well…

If it seems too difficult, I will be working remotely and you can reach me at klempners@aol.com

 

 

 

Divorced With Children? Communication Is Crucial

            If communication is key when you are ‘together’, it’s even more important when you are apart, with children.  Please consider the following do’s and don’t’s.

DO’S

  • Use what works best for the two of you – talk, text, email  –  at ay given time.
  • If possible, don’t communicate when you are angry. With him/her.
  • If necessary, use “I” statements, not accusations.                                                    “I feel frustrated when you are late and don’t communicate”.
  • If necessary, review your note, when angry…imagine yourself receiving it.
  • Try to speak when you both know that your children cannot hear you.
  • Make a short list, to refer to, and stay focused and fairly brief..
  • Be sure to acknowledge positive words or deeds on the other side.
  • Establish a blog about activities with young children.
  • With older children, consider a family blog.
  • Treat it like business….it is…family business.
  • Do admit, if you were wrong, and apologize.

DON’TS

 Don’t blame or ‘bad mouth’

  • Don’t extend the communication longer than necessary,
  • Don’t need to have the last word or always be right.
  • Don’t forget it’s all about and for the children.

Doing the ‘right’ thing is a gift to your children and yourself.

 

When Your Relationship Ends…Part V – Acceptance

When Your Relationship Ends….Part 5 – Acceptance

 The relationship is over and you are really done, emotionally. There are twinges here and there but move beyond.  Old patterns may crop up but you recognize them and alter your urges and responses. Memories don’t need to be completely erased. You don’t need to dwell in the past and are beginning to have plans and goals.  Memories don’t need to be completely erased, especially for your children, as you are able to value aspects of your past. Now that you are comfortable and proud of yourself, don’t be afraid to be open to a new relationship but don’t seek perfection – just a good “fit” with great communication and mutual acceptance.

 Children:

 Your independence makes you a solid role model. It is important for children to be independent, from parents, before they make a successful, significant love connection, not because of need but from desire.  Each child is different and will have his/her own needs, path and time schedule to heal and flourish.   Offer some family pictures from the past in their rooms to acknowledge and appreciate their cherished memories .

 Your Task:

  1. I am pleased with my progress and myself.
  2. I nourish myself physically and mentally.
  3. I am proud of my part in our co-parenting relationship.
  4. I am ready to pursue new avenues in life and new people.
  5. I am able to express my feelings.
  6. I let go, emotionally, of my partner/spouse and former life.
  7. I released my guilt and anger toward him/her.
  8. I know I can stand alone, if necessary, but am open to new things and people.

When Your Relationship Ends….Part IV – Bargaining

              

When you have wrestled with anger and find yourself winning, you arrive at the bargaining phase.  You’re not dancing a jig yet, but are beginning to see the light. Your emotional investment moves from couplehood to  focus on yourself. After looking inward, begin to recognize  input that you don’t want to repeat  in a new relationship.  Work on your self-concept and interaction with others.   Opportunities  loom on the horizon and there is a developing new normalcy.  Consider options and build on them. 

Children:

As your household becomes less emotionally chaotic, your children are calmer and more ready to embark on some new routines in two homes.  Cooperative co-parenting is the foundation of their future emotional growth. As they experience two civil parents, there is no need to take sides.  They understand that they can’t manipulate you both [though most children will try].  Open communication is key as they grow and develop.

Your Task:

  1. I know me and I like me.
  2. I am confident that I can tackle what comes up.
  3. I think of my partner/spouse less emotionally.
  4. I am much less angry about my situation.
  5. I rarely discuss him/her with my friends.
  6. I accept that we will not get back together.
  7. I fantasize about moving on, with clarity and confidence.

When Your Relationship Ends…Part III – Anger

 

As grief and loneliness subside, your emotional temperature rises.  Anger often occurs  when we are hurt and can be useful if we can control it.  While sadness induces a wish to shut down and hide under the covers, anger is energizing. It has many levels, from feeling annoyed, frustrated and piqued to rage, boiling, incensed, stewing, to name just a few.  The latter recall fire, which keeps us warm and cozy, when managed but fire, of out control, is dangerous, out of the body and in the body.  It can lead to headaches tension, ulcers and more.   Feeling angry helps to emotionally distance from your partner/spouse to pursue your own path.

Have your anger help rebuild your life but titrate it. In private, allow yourself to cuss, cry, yell, write a letter [but don’t send] or dance your anger away.  Fantasy is a creative means to discharging anger as long as you don’t act on it. I have heard  many  disasters befalling partners/spouses who were leaving.  Thankfully, none of them occurred and the fantizers felt relief. With some friends, sarcasm and humor will  also help  but share your anger only with those you trust most.

Children

Expect your children to be angry with you for changing their lives.  If they learn that one parent wanted the breakup/divorce, they will likely be angry with that parent and protective of the other.  It’s usually best to not share that  kind of information.  When parents are positive role models, children will have an easier time coping.  They need to express their anger by being listened to and hearing calm, age appropriate explanations.  If your partner/spouse is unable to do that, then it’s up to you.  Sometimes children need to hear the truth, just some, not the whole picture.  For example, “s/he is an alcoholic” or “parents who abandon children have a hard time with parenting”.  Make it brief facts, not a condemnation.

Your task:

  1. I understand why I couldn’t express my anger better before.
  2. I will not harbor my anger.
  3. I am able to communicate with him/her calmly.
  4. I don’t put all the blame on him/her.
  5. I don’t need to ‘get even’.
  6. I can express anger constructively.
  7. I am moving toward forgiveness, for myself and him/her.

 

When Your Relationship Ends…Part II – Sad and Lonely

 

After getting through the first phase (please see my prior post on this topic) of denial and isolation, you understand that it is not just a bad dream.   Grief and loneliness creep in as you miss many aspects of being with your partner/spouse and your former lifestyle.  You feel alone, perhaps unlovable and contemplate impending changes in your life.  This is a stage of grief over loss –  of a partner/spouse, hopes and plans as well as an established family life.  Grief is a process and you need to go through it before you move on.  It is a time to withdraw and allow introspection, to develop inner resources, as long as you don’t brood, feel the victim or completely blame or isolate yourself.

In this second stage, eating and sleep patterns may shift, either more or less.  You may feel out of control and drained emotionally, with guilt or reduced concentration.   Don’t be afraid to express those feelings.  Cry, shout, whatever, when you are alone, as you feel the pain, which can lead to important learning.  Unresolved grief will stall progress and can affect you physically. Develop a healthy balance of alone time and being with trusted and supportive friends and family.

Children

Children also need to be able to experience their sadness and loss. The difference is that most parents do not ‘divorce’ their children, even though there will be changes in their living arrangements and parenting time.  Be a role model for them.  Articulate hope and assure them that they will always have two parents who will work together to raise them, even though it will be in two homes.

Your task:

  1. I will feel my sadness and pain and work through it.
  2. I will not be so busy to avoid being alone.
  3. I will only be with people I like.
  4. I will develop activities that are important to me.
  5. I will not withdraw socially.
  6. I will not seek another love relationship to avoid loneliness.
  7. Grief and loneliness will not control me.

Feel free to pass this along to those you know who are trying to cope.

Please check back for the next phase – Anger.

 

 

When Your Relationship Ends…Part I – Denial

 

Breaking up is hard to do…we know that.  It’s the relationship that is coming apart but you likely feel that you are coming apart.   When you learn that the relationship is no longer viable and about to end, there is  disbelief or outright denial.  For the “leaver” it is likely a developing realization and therefore somewhat less intense, over a period of time.  For the “left” partner, it can feel like a bolt of lightning. “You don’t mean it”!  “How can this be happening to us”?  The emotional storm knocks the wind out of you.

You may be experiencing despair,  disappointment, a wish for retaliation or even revenge  and feel hopeless and helpless.  Once there’s no more denying, you need to believe that there is the possibility for something positive once you can develop a new orientation to life..  There is life after a separation to divorce but it does take dedication to create a newer you.   There is the possibility for something positive once you develop a new orientation to life.  Pay close attention to your feelings and attitudes.

The emotional levels of separation and divorce mirror those of the death of a partner. The stages are denial, depression, anger, bargaining and acceptance. No stage should be skipped as each has its purpose for rebuilding you.

It’s okay to cry and be sad, even useful.  You need to wade through your pain to be able to get to the next phase.  Friends and family are invaluable now.  Seeking a new love relationship would a big mistake at this juncture.   The reality needs to sink in.

Children

      Be gentle but firm, about “the end” with your children and understand that they, too, will be in denial,  In fact, they will hold on to the fantasy of you reuniting for a long time, even if/when you both recouple with others.  They may also blame themselves for the breakup (as they are self-focused) and you should assure them that is not the case.

Your task:

  1. I can accept the end.
  2. I will be able to tell friends and family.
  3. I’m starting to realize some of the reasons that it is ending.
  4. I know it will be hard but believe it can be a positive experience.
  5. I will pursue my own personal growth.
  6. I will learn to be happy alone before committing to another relationship.
  7. Even if we were to reunite, I would still work on my own growth.

There’s a lot to reflect on in this first phase, so I invite you to do that and check back here as we proceed further in the coming days.

 

 

 

 

 

Divorce: Books for Children

 

“Dinosaur’s Divorce”- Lawrence Brown and Marc Brown, 1986

“Let’s Talk About Divorce” – Fred Rogers, 1996

“The Boys and Girls Book About Divorce” – Dr. Richard Gardner, 1977

“Two Homes To Live In” – Barbara Shook Hazen, 1978

“Divorce Happens To The Nicest Kids” – Michael  S. Prokup, 1996

“ When Your Parents Split Up…How To Keep Yourself Together” – Alys Swan-Jackson, 1998

“Was It The Chocolate Pudding?” – Sandra Levins, 2005

“When Emily Woke Up Angry” – R. Duncan, 1989

“My Mother’s House, My Father’s House”, – C.B.Christiansen, 1989

“Always, Always” –  C. Dragonwagon, 1984

“Blue Sky, Butterfly” – J .Van Lewen,  1996

“When Mom and Dad Divorced” – Julian Messner,  1986

“On Divorce, An Open Family Book for Parents and Kids Together” –  S.B. Stein,  1979

“My Life Turned Upside Down, But I Turned It Rightside Up” – Mary Blitzer Field, Henny Shore  1994

“When Divorce Happens” – Kimberly Pressley-Herrick

“Where Am I Sleeping Tonight?” – Carol Gordon Ekster  2008