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We’re all navigating a new parenting normal due to COVID-19. In this guest post from Jorian Seay, she shares tips on navigating the complexities of co-parenting during this global crisis
My rambunctious, fun-loving, precocious son, Matthew, is seven years old. His father and I separated years ago and went through the arduous process of family court in order to determine an amicable and amenable parenting schedule. His father is now married with other children and I live with my long-term partner, who too had a child before we entered into our relationship. Yes, we’re as blended as it gets!
Recently, we were faced with something thousands of American families are also facing—COVID co-parenting. Chicago’s governor announced a near-shut down of the entire city just one day before Matthew was scheduled to go to his father’s house for the weekend. Immediately, thoughts raced through my mind: Is it safe for him to go? Is the other household as health conscious and sanitary as ours? Am I putting him at risk by exposing him to more people? Has anyone in their household been exposed to someone with the virus?
His father and I discussed how important it is to be extremely thoughtful as it relates to cleanliness, outdoor exposure and communication during this time. We ultimately decided on a temporary parenting schedule for Matthew. One that will last until mandates to stay home are lifted and one where he gets to spend ample time at both homes.
We came to our decision by following, what I call, the 4 Fs:
Be Fair – No one could have predicted the day when a great majority of our nation would essentially stop, but such is the time in which we live. With that in mind, remember that this isn’t a time for selfish thinking. As always, this is a time for your child’s best interests to remain the forefront of decision making. So long as neither parent poses an immediate threat to the child, spending as much time as possible with both parents is of his or her best interest. Figure out a way in which this can happen. Maybe it isn’t physical parenting time. Perhaps virtual school lessons, during which the absent parent leads, is the answer for now. Or virtual lunches, where the absent parent has a meal and chat via FaceTime or Zoom with your kiddo(s) is what works. Get creative!
Be Flexible – Keep in mind that our normal way of living has been completely shaken. We have no clue what announcements or further precautionary measures are going to be announced in the coming days and weeks. So, if you come to an agreement that has to be changed because of new developments or constraints, be as flexible as possible. What works today might not work tomorrow.
Be Frank – Have anxieties or worries about the virus and how it affects your family dynamic? You’re in good company—we all do! Don’t be afraid to talk it out and determine what works best for your child as it relates to cleanliness and exposure. Effectively communicate without judgment and without attempting to control how the other parent operates within his or her home. Be gracious, open and clear in your delivery.
Be Firm – Once you come to an agreement, stand by it. Act as a united front against outsiders who might have an opinion about what you should or shouldn’t be doing during this time. Every situation and outcome will be different. Remaining united on the best decision for your family gives your child a sense of stability and unity when it comes to the dynamic between his or her parents.
I talk about this so many other topics relating to parenting and personal development on Instagram (@jorianseay) and on my website jorianseay.com. Follow and connect with me! I’d love to hear from you.