Co-Parenting In COVID-19: Navigating the New Normal
By Suzanne Grimmesey, MFT, Santa Barbara County, Behavioral Wellness Department
Being a good parent is challenging even when things are going well, but when parents live apart, as after a separation or divorce, parenting becomes more complicated. Add in a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic and the stress of co-parenting seems all but impossible. Here are a few tips and strategies to help parents raising children in separate homes overcome their issues and work together to safeguard the children they both love.
- Increase communication between parents: While you may not agree-keep talking and work to compromise on what is best for the children involved. Increasing information sharing during this time of stay at home orders and remote learning is critical and will place both parents, and children, at greater ease.
- Flexibility and patience: Now is the time to be as patient as possible with the other parent and with your children. As we are about to begin a virtual school year with new challenges for parents and kids, try to be as flexible as possible.
- Consider time sharing adjustments: Consider looking at temporarily adjusting parenting schedules to provide the most support to kids while respecting the children’s needs for time with both parents.
- Acknowledge that kids are resilient: They will get through this, but recognize their feelings of being overwhelmed by the uncertainty of how long the pandemic will last, lack of structure that would normally be provided by the school/friends/activities, loss of in person interactions with friends and extended family.
- There is value in nurturing (yourself and your children) with love, food and fresh air every day!
Healthy Children.org also offers these tips:
- Keep communication open. Answer all forms of communication (phone calls, texts, emails, etc.) with your co-parent in a timely manner.
- Don’t keep score.
- Enter each conversation with finding a solution together as your goal.
- Stay socially connected while physical distanced. Schedule virtual visits between your co-parent and your child. Set a regular time and make the child available for video calls.
- Once this crisis is over, set aside extra time so that the non-custodial parent and child can become comfortable together again.
Now is the time to try to be the best parent possible under the circumstances. It is important to be there for kids as they experience a myriad of emotions. This is an especially important time to try to get along with each other when co-parenting, kids will feel it – and appreciate it.
For more information about how you can prevent getting and spreading the coronavirus and what steps the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department is taking to protect our communities, please visit: https://publichealthsbc.org/.
Suzanne Grimmesey, MFT, is the County of Santa Barbara’s Chief Quality Care and Strategy Officer and is responsible for leadership of Quality Care and Strategy Management within the Department of Behavioral Wellness.