Just when you thought you’d figured out summer (or at least survived it). Now it’s Co-Parenting + Covid + Back-to-School. Can’t you almost hear the Jaws theme song in the background?
Any one of those alone would be enough, right? But it’s August and here we are.
We’re not here to debate whether or how schools should reopen. Or whether or not you should send your kids. These are really tough decisions, and for some of us our choices are limited.
What we are here to do is share advice and provide you support. To remind you that wherever you’re at right now, you’re in good company.
So how can you best tackle this trifecta of stressors?
Here are a few DIGC tips to make it all a little easier. Or at least a little clearer.
Tip #1: Communicate with your ex.
In person school. Remote learning. Hybrid. Home school. By next week there will likely be even more options to educate your kids. While options are good, they can also amplify a feeling of uncertainty and stress. Not expressing your concerns and worries won’t make them go away.
Our first suggestion: start by talking to your (ex) spouse. As hard as that might be, it will help to share your concerns and express an opinion about what you’d feel most comfortable doing right now. And actively listen to their opinion.
If it feels next to impossible to envision having a constructive conversation with your (ex) spouse at this red-hot moment, try approaching it as you would a business meeting or doctor’s appointment. Schedule time to talk about it, preferably in the morning, when you’re thinking clearly and not distracted by other things. Set the ground rules and communicate that you’d like to keep the discussion to just this topic, no matter how tempting it might be to go into other things. And consider giving the discussion an end time before you start, which can help change the energy going into it.
Give this a go, even if you can’t agree on what color the sky is. We know plenty of divorced parents who differ on a lot of things but have been pleasantly surprised that they’re able to agree about this.
Note:If this decision has been made for you, either by your child’s school or because you have no choice but to send your children to school, it still may help you lighten the emotional load by communicating how you’re feeling about it.
Tip #2: Follow your parenting plan.
If you aren’t on the same page as your ex, a decision has to be made. The first place to consult is your parenting plan, if you have one. Some states require a tie-breaker for major parenting decisions. If yours does, and your plan has one, then follow it. Like it or lump it, it’s designed to resolve disputes.
But what if your plan is just to work it out together? There are always options short of litigating, like going to a mediator or agreeing to take the opinion of a trusted friend or professional like a family doctor.
Another option is to agree to follow a Plan A and Plan B. Try Plan A for a period of time (a week, a quarter). If it’s not working or one of you hates it, shift to Plan B. Just an example: Plan A is to send the kids to school in person, but if there’s a close call or another child you know at the school tests positive (even if yours isn’t exposed), switch to remote learning.
Sometimes reaching a consensus requires a little creativity and flexibility. It’s worth the effort.
Tip #3: Call on the court system if you can’t work it out.
If all else fails, that’s what the courts are here for. Yes, it’s a murky time for all of us. But yes, courts are open and they are hearing cases (mostly by Zoom).
So if your plan doesn’t provide for a decision-maker, and you and he can’t reach one alone, you may need some help from a Judge.
Tip #4: Know you are not alone.
This stuff is tough, mama. We all have to make parenting decisions we’ve never made before. If just thinking about it puts you into a funk, it’s ok.
Like with everything else, it helps to know you’re not alone.
I had a Zoom call last week with about 10 other moms. We’re in the relative minority of parents at my kids’ school who’ve elected the remote option. Even though I think it’s the best choice for our family (at least for now), I’m still struggling with it. But getting on a call with those other parents, hearing their reasons, and talking about how we can support each other and our kids, helped. It helped a lot.
So reach out to your friends, to other parents, to your school.We all need some support during this time.