Co-parenting with a high-conflict ex is challenging even in the best of times, but many are finding the task to be exponentially harder during the COVID-19 emergency. Wondering what to do if your co-parent is not communicating? Or communicating in ways that are adding to your stress levels? Here are some quick tips for how co-parents can collaborate during the Coronavirus outbreak.
Aim for a COVID-19 agreement. Now is not the time to bring up past grievances with your ex, and vice-versa. This is crisis management, and your goal should be on reaching an agreement for protecting your children’s welfare. That includes: a) identifying safety precautions between households (hand-washing, sanitizing frequently-touched surfaces, social-distancing); b) following school recommendations for online learning; c) notifying each other if any member of the family feels ill. You may also need to create an emergency parenting time schedule, which can require further negotiation.
Keep communication focused on facts. One way to prevent vitriol and fighting from breaking out during your communication over COVID-19 is to stay focused on facts and logistics as you go about making your plans. As much as possible, reference what local government, the CDC, and your children’s doctors and teachers are enforcing or recommending. If you’re concerned that your ex isn’t following protocols, referencing experts — not yourself — will increase the chances that you’ll get your ex on your page, rather than automatically pushing back.
Don’t react to hostile communication. Are you the calm one, on the receiving end of histrionic, threatening texts and emails? Do your best to resist the urge to defend yourself, argue back, or passive-aggressively refuse to address legitimate issues that may be buried in the hysteria. Follow a low-conflict protocol whenever you do write back: be concise, focus on information, use a neutral tone, and be firm and direct. It’s also a good idea to brush up on your texting and Skyping skills and be prepared that negotiations will be done at a distance. The good news when you are dealing with a high-conflict ex? This may be a way to get ahold of the conversation and set the tone without the fireworks that may go off when you are in the same room.
Be smart about taking legal action. Most issues related co-parenting can be resolved with the help of your attorneys, or through mediation. If your ex is refusing to follow the custody order or if there are significant reasons why your children should not be in your co-parent’s care, these may be reasons to go (virtually) before a judge. Be aware that the court system is even more delayed than normal right now, so think carefully: Is the issue you’re having with your ex something that you can possibly settle through mediation, or is court truly necessary? You can schedule an initial consultation with an attorney to discuss your best options.
Give yourself a mental break. Is your own fear and panic making peaceful negotiation impossible? The key to managing anxiety is to focus on the things you can control, and your former spouse is not one of those things. To keep your peace of mind when things get heated or upsetting in co-parenting through this pandemic, cultivate strategies to regulate your nervous system, such as mindfulness practices, online therapy, and taking a break from the news. It’s okay to ask your attorney to do the negotiating for you if interacting with your ex sends your stress levels through the roof.
Bottom line? The COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity for high-conflict co-parents to change their perspective. There has never been a better time to stop sweating the small stuff, learn to stay in your own lane, and emotionally disengage from your ex’s crazy-making behaviors.
Do you need help in your high-conflict parenting situation? Have questions about constructing an emergency coronavirus parenting time plan? We can help. To schedule a virtual consultation with an attorney, please call us today at 888-888-0919, or please click the button below.
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