2020 Co-Parenting During COVID-19 Lockdown
Updated: Apr 16, 2020
Hayley Haynes-Rolando - Educational Psychologist
Both Co-parenting and COVID 19 are challenges that can create anxiety and tension for parents and children. Dealing with co-parenting during the COVID 19 lockdown seems like an insurmountable task. The recent announcement by the social development minister that children can now move between their parents provided there is a court order agreement in place the child was not in contact with anyone potentially infected with COVID 19 may provide some relief for parents and children. However this announcement may also create frustrations and tensions in an already stressful situation.
Coping strategies during COVID 19
The question then is how do we cope with co-parenting during the COVID 19 lockdown. The simple answer is, communication, connection and consistency. Children are resilient and can cope in the most challenging of circumstances. How they cope is often dependent on the way in which the adults in the lives mediate their experiences.
Fighting this global pandemic has required radical and aggressive strategies. One of these strategies is constant communication with the public. Communication in this sense involves letting people know what is happening in as much detail as they request, and also being available to listen to all their questions, concerns, feelings and thoughts about what is shared with them. Children too need constant communication, whether it is with regards to the co-parenting schedule or how long this lockdown will continue. It is important that we are honest with children and share with them what we know, when we know it and in a manner that they can understand. Being honest about the plan and getting their buy in is essential in order for us to support co-parenting. As much as children need to know what is happening, it is also important that we listen to them too. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, and often when we ourselves are unsure of what lies ahead, this can be anxiety provoking. The truth is that children can sense our anxiety, so honestly sharing what we know, reflecting on their anxiety and if necessary acknowledging our own, whilst gently reassuring them of their safety can aid children in feeling secure in the most trying circumstances.
Cultivating emotional connection during social distancing
Children thrive and appreciate when their caregivers are able to spend time with them. Building a healthy relationship with your child involves a conscious effort to spend quality time with them. This does not mean planning fancy activities or spending every waking moment with them, it does however suggest, being present and available to your child, when you are engaging with them. I think what you choose to do with your child during this special time is far less important than you being available and interested in their thoughts, ideas and experience.
Developing a healthy relationship with a child, builds self- esteem, self-confidence and allows parents to understand and intervene when their children are having difficulties. Being present and available to your children allows you to observe their behaviour and listen to them. This encourages them to express their emotions and in a sense helps to develop their emotional intelligence. It is also important to encourage a close relationship between your child and their other parent. Involving other present and invested adults in child rearing is a gift for children, and being able to have support in understanding your child’s experiences and needs from someone who cares about them, will offer them a greater understanding of themselves and the world around them.
Flattening the curve of inconsistency
Being on the same page and communicating as caregivers about how to raise your child, even if that is in separate homes, helps your child to feel safe and secure. This may include deciding together on what limits you set, how you will handle discipline, how you talk about what is happening in the family and with the pandemic. Consistency and clarity in limit setting, as well as collaborating on a consistent routine across the homes of the child can also help to make children feel safe and secure.
Just as the COVID 19 pandemic will end, and for the most part the world will get through it, so too do children get through the separation or the changes that come with co-parenting. How children survive it and the lasting effect that it leaves on their lives is dependent on how well we as parents implement and carry out our strategy. Negotiating co-parenting takes patience, accountability and hard work from both parents and having to constantly keep the child’s development and wellbeing at the centre of our decisions and actions. It is also important to keep in mind our humanity when dealing with each other and ourselves, in short be kind to yourself and your fellow co parent. Of course things will not always go smoothly and the pain that often accompanies co-parenting relationships will impact on the parenting strategy, and that is okay. Mistakes and bad decisions can be repaired, if we are aware and are willing to change the strategy or narrative. It is never too late to repair and do better.
Finally, as I reflect on the tragedies of COVID 19, I am pained as we all are, by how many victims of the virus, have had to suffer and at times die alone. This sobering thought is a reminder of our human need to connect and feel loved. As you navigate your co-parenting plans, my hope is that love and a desire for connection with your child remains at the core of all your actions.
JPCCC’s co-parenting support during Covid 19 can be summarised into three C’s. Communication - communicate honestly and age appropriately with your child,
Consistency - being on the same page and providing a consistent environment and Connection - connection is the key to maintaining parent/child relationships through this difficult time and ‘being with’ is all our children need from us.
Please feel free to contact JPCCC for further support and information on parenting.