COVID-19 and Co-parenting
by Dr. Maureen O’Brien
Posted on Wednesday, June 10, 2020
Uncharted territory. New normal. Unprecedented times. These phrases hold true for everyone, but parents have had their world upended more than most by the pandemic. Much of what constitutes good parenting–reliable home routines, patience, clear boundaries–is out the window. As parents, we are all struggling with balancing our primal role of being our child’s protector with a myriad of extra responsibilities. Even if you have a co-parent with whom you are sharing the load, life can feel overwhelming right now. Five basic ground rules might help:
1) Divide and conquer. Task sharing includes meal prep, school work, chores and errands. Be fair and don’t take only the easier tasks. Be open to swapping roles with your co-parent when frustrated.
Example: “I thought I could handle the mornings, but it turns out that’s when the kids’ school assignments are heaviest. Let’s try alternating weeks.”
2) Communicate often. Even the most organized, proactive adults are struggling now. You and your partner need to revisit how things are working. The rules you laid down at the beginning may no longer hold, now that we are talking months of transition. Use “I” statements to eliminate any sense of blaming or resentment.
Example: “I need help juggling things. It’s too much of a commitment to FaceTime both sets of grandparents daily. Maybe we can send pictures and talk weekly instead.”
3) Relax non-critical rules. Now that families are together nearly 24/7, it’s impossible to keep the same standards. Choose your non-negotiables, like screens in the bedroom, but don’t beat yourself up if you or your partner need a “screen babysitter” for a Zoom call.
Example: “I know we said the kids’ schoolwork had to be done before we go outside. But they need to get some energy out. So today, it’s OK to take a break and ride bikes.”
4) Use technology for good. Think of ways to introduce some variety into your child’s life. If you can encourage reading or socializing versus just entertainment-based apps, that’s even better. Look for platforms that feature books that are read aloud to your child. Or have your child connect via Zoom with grandparents, aunts or uncles to give you a break.
Example: “Instead of reading the bedtime story, maybe we can chill out and listen to one on Audible together?”
5) Go easy on you! Self-care is not selfish. You and your partner deserve some downtime too. Ask for extra hugs, share a decadent snack or plan a future date to have something to look forward to. This might mean getting up extra early or staying up a bit later, but squeezing in a few minutes for couple time is critical to reducing stress.
Example: “We have both been working too late. Let’s agree to shut off our notifications after 7pm, order take out, and have a late dinner once the kids are asleep.”
If it’s any comfort, even the most cooperative of partners is feeling stretched these days. Find the little moments of joy that will get you through. When the pandemic is behind us, you’ll be able to say that you conquered this time successfully together!