The arrival of COVID-19 has drastically changed the way we interact with neighbors, friends and family. With an understanding that even casual contact can be hazardous and even deadly for older people and those with underlying health issues. This can certainly complicate things if you are sharing custody of your children with your former spouse.
Co-parenting, by definition, has always been an exercise in compromise. However, the pandemic has created new challenges and made some formerly reliable solutions, such as enlisting grandparents to help babysit, now nearly impossible. That doesn't mean that you can't still share custody with the mother or father of your children and still be safe. You just have to be more careful about your actions.
Continue to prioritize the welfare of your kids. One thing that hasn't changed during the pandemic is that your kids are the most important element in a co-parenting situation and deserve your full attention. Whatever decisions you make, make sure that you put them first.
Sit down and define health protocol together. Whether you like it or not, your two households are connected. The actions (or inactions) from one household can definitely affect the health of the members of the other household. To best keep a common level of protectiveness, sit down with your former spouse and decide how you're going to handle things like mask wearing, social distancing and limiting your contact with others in the community. It would be a good idea to write these decisions down, so there's no confusion later.
Plan for emergencies. While planning for emergencies has always been an important part of co-parenting, it's especially vital now. Do you know what you'd do if one of you became ill with the coronavirus or if one of you had to quarantine (without your kids) for 14 days? What if both of you were quarantining? Do you have a plan for what happens if your son or daughter's school closes or if, heaven forbid, one of your children becomes ill with the virus? While no one likes to think about life taking a drastic turn, it's always better to know ahead of time that you've got this situation covered.
Stick to your parenting plan as much as possible. Kids thrive when they know what to expect from each day. That generally translates into routine. As much as possible, work with your former spouse to keep your parenting plan as steady and as normal as possible. Of course, things like quarantines or illnesses can derail those plans, but don't let small things become and excuse to postpone visitations or special (pandemic-safe) activities. Court orders are still being enforced by most courts, even during the pandemic, except for situations where it is impossible, such as with a flight cancellation or a state-ordered travel ban.
Start some new pandemic traditions. While parents may be wishing for the days when the pandemic will be distant history, kids are busy just living their childhood. You can't put that on hold, no matter how challenging the world is getting. Make this a time to start new traditions that your kids will remember fondly for years to come. Do things like encouraging your child to keep a journal to write about this unique time and their experiences, starting a garden (and sharing the bounty with your child's "other family"), and starting new wellness habits like a daily walk or yoga (again things that can travel from household to household). If your relationship with your former spouse is such that you can include him or her (and family) directly in your new tradition, so much the better.
Communicate better than ever before. Good communication is essential during these pandemic times. Your former spouse is not be nosy when he or she wants to know where you've been and who you've seen. He or she is just trying to mitigate the risk in their own household. Your household becomes an extension of your own in these times and who you see and where you go can dramatically affect the health and safety of all of you. Make sure that you cheerfully share this information and do all you can to get the same cooperation from your former spouse.
Keep your sense of humor. You're not alone if you're experiencing "pandemic fatigue". Most, if not all, of us are tired of having to restrict our actions, forego getting together in person with our friends and having to overthink everywhere we go and everyone we come into contact with. However, it's still good for your kids--and you--to keep your sense of humor. It will go a long way towards helping your kids from feeling your stress as well as improving communications with your ex.
Co-parenting is never easy. However, even in a pandemic, you can keep your kids happy and safe with a little advanced planning, good communication and a vow to always put your kids first.