With quarantine underway, it has created a lot of uncertainty for parents who are experiencing heightened responsibilities outside of their regular routine. And, when you're co-parenting this can amplify your concerns around commuting your children back and forth and deciding what is best for their health.
Maybe you're asking yourself…
Is it safe to have my children traveling to multiple locations?
What are the risks of them contracting it if one parent is an essential worker?
How do I put aside my emotions to do what is best for my children's health right now?
Where should the children spend quarantine?
By law, you and your co-parent will need to abide by your shared parenting agreement. However, some co-parents are making the difficult decision to create a temporary arrangement with clear guidelines, travel restrictions, and proper adjustments to diminish exposure of the virus between pick-ups and drop-offs. With that being said, a large number of co-parents are having their young children reside full-time with one parent for preventive safety measures.
If you're a co-parent who has willingly chosen to forgo seeing your children due to the virus, then you may face some challenges of staying connected while not seeing your children during your scheduled parenting time.
So how do you create safety and security with your children when you can't be by their side?
Related post: Resolve to Be a Better Co-Parent
Keeping the lines of communication open with your co-parent, and children gives them the security of knowing you are still present in your children's lives despite physical separation. In today's world, the majority of relationships benefit from a mutually shared connection of feeling heard and understood, including your children.
Simply scheduling video calls with your children helps them feel emotionally safe as new practices are in full effect. Children greatly benefit from consistency with both parents, as their personal structure of school, extracurricular activities, and parenting time are on hold. The act of listening to your children or asking them what they need to feel secure, while homebound, will do wonders for their psychological health.
Also, use this time as an opportunity to get creative and really learn about your child. What are they missing from their normal lifestyle and how you can recreate those experiences for them during your parenting time conversations. Seeing each other face-to-face through video calling allows you to align with your child and form a deeper understanding as eye contact and body language contributes to reassurance.
Who doesn't love a good surprise in the mail? Sending handwritten cards or mini care packages is sure to brighten your child's day as they will greatly appreciate the thoughtful gesture. This lets them know you are thinking of them even though you can't be together under the same roof.
Your care package can be as simple as a postcard or heartfelt note, their favorite snack, a book, or the luxury of a new game to play with. It's totally up to you. The secret is knowing what your children will enjoy and cherish during their time at home. The more thoughtful, the better your connection can thrive.
P.S. The co-parent receiving the package needs to take proper disinfecting measures.
You most likely have scheduled parenting time one or two nights during the week. During those nights, we recommend scheduling storytime or for the more adolescent crew playing a virtual game back and forth. You may also suggest watching the same documentary the night before then talking about it together during your video call. This is a great way to learn and keep a strong bond with your children while embracing normalcy as much as possible.
And if you want to have some fun, you can establish video time, play charades, or have dance-offs. If video options aren't possible, then playing "i spy" over the phone is a great way to enjoy each other's company from afar.
If you are unable to have your children during your scheduled parenting weekend, it may feel like something is missing in your life. At the same time, you don't have to give up quality time with your children. Again, it's all about getting creative and thinking outside the box.
Schedule virtual lunches or dinner during your parenting time with your children so you can share a meal as if you were together. It's a great time to chat about their day, help with schoolwork questions, and discover what they are most grateful for in life. You may be surprised how much more you find out about your children during this time because it's establishing greater engagement than if you were just in each other's presence.
Staying physically active is just as important as emotionally staying connected with your children. This is a win-win for the whole family. Self-care is vital to de-stressing and keeping the body from falling physically ill.
Your children may be used to going to after school extracurricular activities or having gym/recess time during school. Recreating this exercise time at home together helps with building in physical activity while burning all those extra spells of energy. Simple in-home workouts such as yoga, stretching, pilates, jumping jacks, push-ups, etc. can all be done together while cheering each other on over the phone or video.
If you find yourself in a position where you aren't able to see your children during quarantine, and your co-parent isn't effectively working with you during your scheduled parenting time, then you may need to consult with a professional to resolve the parental discord. Just because there is a pandemic going on, this doesn't take away your rights as a parent.
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Jan and Jillian Yuhas, MFT, CPC are certified co-parenting coaches and family mediators. To learn more about how they can help your family through this unfortunate crisis, schedule a consultation so you can get back to being a parent to your children.
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