3 Tips for Parents Sharing Custody during the Corona Pandemic
Sharing custody is tricky at the best of times — and we're definitely not in the best of times right now. We're dealing with so many unprecedented changes, it can feel like we're all having to learn new ways to move through our daily lives. And while this is inconvenient and frustrating when it comes to things like grocery shopping, it can feel absolutely terrifying when it comes to things like navigating custody of your kids if you're divorced or separated.
Here's my best tips for making this time as easy as possible on you, your co-parent, and your kids:
1. Stay as compliant as you can with any court orders or custody agreements.
Just because the whole world feels like it's changed right now doesn't mean that you're off the hook when it comes to following previous agreements. Try to keep to them as closely as possible, even though schools are closed and daily life is different.
If you're in a situation where you can't share the time as your agreement dictates (because one parent has to work more, or you're under a stay-at-home order, for example), get creative with how you can keep that parent-child connection going. Things like books or movies that are special to one parent can be a good way to do this, as can things like video calls.
2. Stay physically and mentally healthy.
Just because your routine's out the window doesn't mean you can't still take care of yourself and your children. Model good, healthy behaviors for them like hand-washing, wiping down frequently used objects, and social distancing.
This also includes modeling good mental health — while things are, of course, scary, try to stay calm and make sure your children understand that things aren't going to always be this way. Let them ask any questions they want to ask about what's going on, and be honest with them, but make it clear that they're safe, and you and your co-parent are taking care of them.
3. Be kind, generous, and transparent.
Above all, try to see this as an opportunity to practice a little extra kindness, generosity, and transparency with your co-parent. Things are likely going to be hard for people for a while, so see where you can give your co-parent a break. For instance, if your co-parent is paying child support and can't make the full amount just now because of lost earnings, try to see what you can do to accommodate. Likewise, if you are in a position to take extra care of your children and make life easier for your co-parent, try to make that happen. And, either parent has lost out on time with the kids because of social distancing, try to find a way to get them some extra time down the road.
Similarly, be as transparent with your co-parent as possible. If you think you or your child has been exposed to the virus, let them know, and work on a plan to protect your kids from exposure before it becomes an issue, if possible.
There's no way around it — things are definitely strange right now. But I hope these tips can help you maintain some normality and find some ease in your co-parenting. And, as always, I'm here to help if you need me. I've converted my mediation practice to being completely online now, and am more than happy to help you work through whatever you're experiencing.