The following is a guest post written by Christina Henderson from Expression Counselling. While I don’t typically post Guests Posts on my blog, this was too good not to share.
Last week I read a news article (I believe it was in the Globe and Mail, but admittedly I have been a bit of an over-consumer of news, so I might be wrong) about how our Federal government, despite their ideological differences and personality conflicts were able to come together, keeping their typical snarky jabs to themselves, to create a plan that *gasp* was in the best interest of Canadians.
Y’all getting the analogy here about co-parenting… If our political parties can do this, we can too.
We are living in unprecedented times here folks, the small issues about ear piercings and bedtimes need not apply. What we are actually talking about is LIFE and DEATH, and it requires us to be our absolute best selves right now. In my own co-parenting situation, my husband has an underlying heart condition, and my child’s father has Type 1 Diabetes, so for us, the stakes are high. And I’m not alone in this. A large majority of us either have an underlying health issue or have a person residing within our own 2-meter radius for whom we fear for their health. Or we simply just don’t want to get sick, and that’s fair too. What a messy situation when you have kiddos going back and forth between households. How hard it is to put total trust in the actions and behaviours of another family, especially if there’s a history of conflict and distrust?
I’ve got some thoughts and tips:
1. Now is the time to live with absolute integrity. Our highest selves are called to action. That means, not ONLY following the recommendations laid out by our governments and health authorities (which you absolutely must do), but also communicating with your co-parent from a place of understanding, grace and compassion. We know that scared people are often not at their best. So be nice. Leave the bullying tactics at the door. Leave the insults and condescension in 2019. Be respectful of your co-parent’s boundaries. Don’t discuss your co-parent in front of the children (ever, but especially now). Be the best you right now.
2. Stick to the letter of your parenting agreement. Do not let yourself be pressured into schedule changes that you are not comfortable with. Consistency is what is best for the children, especially now that their routines have gone the way of the dodo bird. However, I get it. There are a variety of reasons why this might not work for your family right now. Perhaps you no longer have childcare and one of you has been laid off, perhaps one of you works in an essential service and are now pulling extra shifts, heightening the risk of exposure, perhaps someone in your family has been exposed to or diagnosed with Covid-19, so the child(ren) must stay in one house longer than the other. If this is the case, agree in advance that any lost parenting days will be made up when this crisis has passed.
3. Let’s talk about money. Pro tip: don’t be a jerk. This goes for both the child support payers and the child support receivers. If you are a payer, please don’t suddenly decide that you can’t pay anymore and just “announce” to your baby-mamma or baby-daddy that the cheque ain’t coming this month. There are a ton of options to reduce or delay payments or find ways to reduce everyday expenses. Please let your co-parent be the LAST person you let down financially right now. And if you are a child support receiver, have some empathy for your co-parent. If they have suddenly experienced a significant change in income, are there ways YOU can reduce your expenses to allow a decrease in support payments at this time? A little generosity might go a long way when this situation is behind us.
4. Let go of control. At the end of the day you can only control what you can. These are things such as communicating your needs and boundaries, teaching your children about safe practices (hand washing, cleaning, physical distancing), and caring for your own wellness (exercise, gratitude, playfulness, rest, connection). Let go of the rest. And here’s the hard part: practice trust. Trust that all is unfolding as it will and that we will be okay. Trust that your co-parent is doing the best they can. Remember to take a breath. We’ve done hard things before. This too shall pass.
We are here for support if you need it.
Wishing you peace,
Hi I’m Christina. I am a mom, wife therapist, avid reader and writer doing my best to live with love and intention. I co-parent my children and have learned many lessons along the way about relationship, owning my stuff, boundaries, and letting go. I bring all these well-earned life lessons into my work as a therapist. Aside from working with children, youth and families, I also specialize in supporting folks who have experienced trauma, either in early childhood or as an adult. It is genuinely my greatest privilege to do the work I do.
For more about Christina or to learn about her services click here.