By Mark T. Schillinger, MSW, LCSW, KITM Therapist
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our lives, it can be challenging to stay positive. This is especially true if you are a parent who is struggling with your children transitioning from your house to your co-parent’s home. Many questions arise about how best to maintain the health and safety of your children. Some parents may have to make the difficult decision of allowing their children to stay with your co-parent because of the increased risk for exposure, for example, with a parent who is an emergency room nurse. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers, but there are some guidelines to help make the process easier and more effective.
- Explore your anxiety and concerns about COVID-19 and how it may impact your parenting practices and expectations.
- Consider how your co-parent may perceive the situation. Yes, you cannot read your co-parent’s mind, but you may have a sense of how your co-parent’s parenting practices and expectations have changed (or not changed) due to COVID-19.
- Talk to your co-parent about what you are doing to maintain your child’s health and safety as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
- Keep the discussion simple and as neutral as possible. Provide information and facts about what you are doing, not about why you are doing it.
- Don’t make demands, and don’t tell them what to do as this may create a feeling of resistance to any suggestions you may have.
- Remember that you can only control what you do. It may be best to agree to disagree. Don’t waste energy trying to convince your co-parent on the importance of following specific guidelines. Your energy is better spent taking care of yourself and making sure that your child safe while they are with you.
- It may also be helpful to talk to your child about their feelings and concerns about COVID-19. However, this is not an opportunity to speak negatively about your co-parent and to undermine your co-parent’s authority with your child.
Another challenge that we have heard from parents is having to do pick-ups and drop-offs at their homes rather than doing them at school. Doing pick-ups and drop-offs at school provides a more neutral way to transition from one parent to the other, but it may not be an option in the foreseeable future as many schools are opting for virtual learning. Again, it is essential to focus on doing simple things to make the transitions as smooth as possible. Here are a few ways to make those transitions easier.
- Be Proactive: If you know you have to interact with your co-parent, make sure that you are mentally prepared. Try your best to avoid showing outward signs of anger, hostility, and/or anxiety about your co-parent when you are dropping your child off. Remember that children can often sense when their parents are feeling distressed. This is likely to create anxiety and worry for your child as well. It may be helpful to focus on relaxation before going to a drop-off.
- Know Before You Go: Have a general idea about how the drop-off will go. This may require communication with your co-parent about the logistics of drop-offs.
- Focus on the Positive: Try your best to be positive and calm about the transition. You may have anger and hostility toward your co-parent, but your child needs to have a positive relationship with both of their parents.