Coronavirus…it’s a word that has the masses running scared and leaving grocery store shelves empty. It has created confusion, worry and panic for many. However, there is a smaller population that is left with a whole new set of concerns. Namely, parents who are already struggling to spend the parenting time they deserve with their children.
Governments are closing schools indefinitely, businesses are closing their doors, and major events are being cancelled worldwide. The words “isolation” and “quarantine” are part of everyone’s regular vocabulary these days, and some are taking advantage.
This world pandemic is providing an excuse for some separated and/or divorced parents to isolate their children from their co-parent. It is also allowing them to use fear – a very powerful motivator – to manipulate their children into resisting any contact with their other parent.
What is the “out” parent to do?
What is one to do when facing this resistance? The police won’t step in to enforce parenting time (unless you are lucky enough to have a court order stipulating they have the power to do so). And with courts shutting down for “non-emergent” cases, “out” parents have no recourse to see their children.
Following are strategies you can use as the “out” parent to maintain connection with your children, or at the very least, cope with the circumstances you are in:
Ensure your time together is high quality
Accept any opportunity you may have to spend time with your children. Try not to get too hung up on the amount of time together. Focus on ensuring the time you do spend together is high-quality. Plan family dinners together, play board games, engage in completing puzzles, go for a walk together, etc.
Keep communication lines open
For those of you who don’t have the opportunity to spend time with your children, ensure that you keep all communication lines open. Text, email and call your children as much as is permitted. Ensure you send short impactful messages about things your children will be interested in and reassure them you are okay.
Although your child may have you blocked from communication, they often do still check and read their messages from you. Try not to get discouraged if you receive no response. Consistent, loving communication is key.
Just know that times of uncertainty and heightened anxiety (like we are experiencing now) can trigger a weakening in your children’s defense mechanisms. This means that you have a greater opportunity now to break through your children’s hardened hearts.
Schedule a complimentary strategy session for information on how we can help you communicate with your children in a way that you are being heard.
Be clear, concise and respectful in your communication
Continue to contact your co-parent in writing to request your parenting time. Ensure you are clear and concise in your request, and remain respectful. In the event you receive a negative response, do not counter with more negativity. Ignore any demeaning and insulting comments. The goal is to collect proof that you are interested in exercising your parenting time, and that your co-parent is uncooperative. Always write your communication as if it was going to be read by a Judge.
Be mindful of what you post on social media
Although your co-parent may be blocking access to your children, and your children may not be responding, keep in mind that they always remain curious…and now is a time when they will have a greater opportunity to view your social profiles.
Keep all posts positive, and not fear-driven. Do NOT:
- post negative comments about your co-parent
- defend yourself against your co-parent and tell “your side” of the story
- try to educate your children about the obstruction of family bonds that sometimes follows separation and/or divorce
- make your children feel guilty for not spending time with you
- share fear-driven messages about the Coronavirus (their other parent is likely driving that fear and you want to demonstrate calmness)
Create an email address for your children
For parents who have no contact with their children, we often recommend that you create an email address for them. Send regular positive messages to the address. This offers you an outlet that helps maintain a connection with your children. When your children do re-enter your life, you can offer them the password to the email when they are ready to demonstrate that they have remained an important part of your life.
Remain compassionate and loving
It is more important than ever to teach your children resiliency and calm. Do not lose your compassion in the current circumstances. Consider what you can do for your children that is loving…and do it!
One parent posted that he ordered food rations for his family, but decided to have them delivered to his minor children and co-parent’s home even though he currently has not contact with his children. What a powerful message that sent!
Take care of yourself
We know you’ve heard it a million times, but self-care really is one of the most important things to practice when your children are on the brink of, or have ultimately emotionally cut-off from you. Taking care of yourself not only makes you feel better, but it also sends a message that you are worthy of the love and care you provide to yourself. Take the time to journal, have a nice bubble bath, cook yourself a healthy and tasty meal, read a book, or anything else that recharges your batteries.
Take the time to care for others
Lastly, take the time to provide support to others that may need it. The elderly are most at risk from COVID-19. Perhaps you have an elderly neighbor that you can take a care basket to, or buy supplies for? This takes the focus off your own problems and places it on something that is both positive and within your control. The appreciation you receive will make you feel good.
We hope these tips help you to connect with your children and/or cope with the current circumstances. With any luck, the Coronavirus will pass quickly and the impact on your community will be minimal. For now, stay smart and keep safe!
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