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Staying in Control When Losing Control: Co-Parenting in Quarantine

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The world we are in today is losing a lot of control in every aspect of life. We have so many questions and so many fears. How can we keep a small bit of control to stay sane right now while co-parenting? All parents know even small bits of control can help your sanity.

As a single mom of 4-year-old twins, I am always looking at the bright side and staying positive, but this quarantine has really affected me in ways I didn’t think I never would have imagined. Mentally, when my kids are with their father, I am a mess. We have 50/50 custody and exchange every Sunday--week on week off. It’s tough in general but now that we are in lockdown it’s even more difficult. I am alone with my thoughts and fears of the unknown. I already have no control over what happens at dad’s house. I don’t know if he is following the rules of social distancing, I don’t know who he has been around or who his new girlfriend (that lives with him) has been around, but I remind myself that fear is a choice. I won’t let it control me, especially not now.

I am trying to stay positive and see co-parenting in quarantine as a way you can still be in control of something small to feel somewhat normal. That’s all we really can do right now is find the small things we sometimes take for granted and try to appreciate them in a bigger way. How is that possible? It seems impossible since we have no control over what happens at the other parent’s house, but we can still control the schedule. My kids’ father and I know how important it is for our children to have consistent time with each of us. Since everything else is not steady right now, school is closed, parks are closed no more play dates. We both agree that the schedule should not change and we as parents have control over that. The kids are so confused as to why everyone is getting sick and why they can’t go to school or see their friends.

It’s heartbreaking, we must be sensitive to their little minds and make sure they are feeling as loved and comforted as possible in these times.

Keeping our schedule the same is one thing that is not changing around them and I believe that the kids will also feel they still have a little control over something. This is so important for them to feel right now. As much as we are all mentally drained as parents, I’m sure the kids are feeling the same they just don’t know how to articulate it.

Here are a few tips for single parents to feel in control of their emotions when speaking to or dealing with the other parent in these uncertain times:

  1. Try your absolute hardest to acknowledge the small things they are doing. Even if it’s simply saying, “Thank you for dropping off the kids today.” I know from experience it can be difficult even saying that simple phrase but, every time I have been even a tad bit polite and grateful it has helped tremendously. I have definitely done the opposite and if I’m being honest, very recently. I was not grateful, and it bit me in the butt. I try just as we all do, to always be positive and always be cordial and some days its ok to feel like you can’t be. It really just comes down to the children seeing the example being set. It is so important for them to feel like their parent’s respect and appreciate each other.
  2. Ask questions in a less aggressive way. For example, “Who are you around right now and who are you exposing my kids to?” Maybe try “How are you feeling about being around friends right now?” Honestly even if you do or do not know who they have been around it gives them a chance to answer you in a non- threatening way. They will most likely feel like you don’t doubt that they are being very cautious right now. If they are not being cautious that can be whole separate conversation, but again try to stay calm lol. It is pretty amazing the way simple questions can turn into arguments even if they are not meant to. I have also been in this situation recently (due to high emotions during this time of the unknown) where I ask a question and it comes off really wrong and turns into a disagreement or discussion turned into an argument. We can all just try to be more conscious of how we speak to our co-parent in front of our kids. It speaks volumes to the children, again to set an example of respect and humility.
  3. If you are feeling emotional and stressed, I know as we all are right now, maybe keep communication to a minimum. Only address what really needs to be talked about and make the choice to stay quiet and reflect. It is one of the hardest things I deal with. I have to control my emotions all the time as a single mom, but it always comes back to what is best for the kids. All kids deserve a loving, patient, caring, kind, grateful parent. Those words are hard to achieve as a human being, and especially a parent, but I do believe it is also important for our kids to see that we have raw emotions and sometimes can’t control them the way we want to. Dealing with quarantine we have so many unknowns and so many ups and downs. It is stressful just trying to plan out activities for the kids, or plan anything at all. If you can try to take 5 mins of alone time even if it’s while using the bathroom. Those moments of silence and solitude can possibly change the rest of the day and how you are going to communicate with your co-parent and your kids. Self-care and control can be as simple as not speaking and being in silence.

We can hopefully look at this quarantine as extreme quality time and try to enjoy each moment we have with our little ones. We can show appreciation for the other parent in keeping the same schedule. We can thank them for small actions and instead of aggressively questioning them, we can have faith that each parent will do what’s best for the child or children.

Let’s try our best to see the small wins as big wins. We don’t have to lose all control we can still keep some things somewhat normal and see the bright side of it all.

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