Around the world, everyone is finding a new normal during the COVID-19 global crisis.
During this time, I remind my children (and myself) that during a crisis- more so than at any other time- we are either part of the problem or part of the solution.
This is true not only for individuals but also for partnerships such as co-parenting.
Co-parenting can be challenging during the best of times and can be much harder during difficult ones.
4 Tips for Co-Parenting During COVID-19
Here are some things to consider:
The principle of applying your own oxygen mask before assisting others is more important than ever during a crisis. It is critical during stressful times to find healthy ways to achieve self-care. During this time of social distancing and shelter in place, a number of strategies are not available to us, but we need to keep looking.
I have been impressed by the creativity people have shown to connect with each other (virtual dinner parties and family gatherings) and the generosity of companies (posting free workouts and free meditation apps). Take advantage of these strategies as well as others that might work well for you, such as reading, going for a walk/bike ride/jog, calling a friend, and limiting news coverage if it becomes overwhelming.
2. Be flexible:
Both you and your co-parent may be struggling with new challenges. Many people have lost jobs, income, and health care. Those fortunate enough to still have their jobs are often trying to figure out how to do those jobs while at home and homeschooling their children. Others are on the front lines of this crisis. You need to be prepared things will go as planned. Drop-offs and pick-ups are not happening at school and one or both of you might be running late due to circumstances beyond your control. It might be easy to fall into the familiar pattern of blaming each other, but I encourage you to make the most generous interpretation and be flexible.
3. Be patient:
Be patient with yourself, your co-parent and your children. Be gentle with yourself when things don’t go according to plan. Be patient with your co-parent who may be struggling and needs you to be a teammate for the sake of your children. Be patient with your children. They are experiencing a crisis as well as having lost their normal routines of school, friendships, and extracurricular activities. Older children will hear the news and need help processing it.
Younger children will feel the stress of the environment even if they don’t understand the concept of a pandemic. Some children will show increased anxiety or regressed behaviors (e.g. with potty training, bedwetting, independent sleeping). Teenagers may show increased irritability. Remembering the source of all this anxiety can help you respond more compassionately even if the behavior is driving you crazy.
4. Be realistic:
Be realistic about your expectations for yourself and your kids. No parent who is simultaneously trying to do a job and home school are thrilled with their performance. Be realistic about how and when your work can get done. Be realistic about how home learning will go in your household. Be realistic that screen time is going to increase and siblings are going to fight and hopefully the toilet paper doesn’t run out in the midst of all of it!
It is important to stay healthy, both physically and emotionally during this time. Access your personal and professional support systems so that you can continue to support your children. Our world is changing daily and my hope is that you can be patient with yourself and your family as we all adjust. I never tell people that everything will be fine, I couldn’t possibly know how things will turn out, but you can make your lives and those around you better by doing the best you can and utilizing what you have to offer.