By Callie Albaugh, MA, LAMFT
In the midst of a global pandemic, how DO you parent your children? As parental leaders, it is your role to provide structure, guidance, and assurance for your children on any given day. Throw a global pandemic in the mix, and suddenly, the ‘mom and dad’ job took on a whole new element.
Children thrive off of consistent structure. When parents are able to maintain consistency as much as possible, children are able to excel and maintain stability even in the midst of a pandemic. Parents may differ on how to make parenting decisions and what to do about difficulties or crises that occur. For two household families, the job of co-parenting can be met with extreme challenges. Two household co-parents require balancing the different dynamics that occur in each household, and at times, effective co-parenting strategies can be shadowed by prior relational hurts.
When children live in two households, the need for parental alignment and consistent structure is key. Again, children thrive off of consistent structure. When there is disruption in co-parent communication, polarities in parenting styles, and immense conflict between parents, we see an increase of Anxiety in children. Children can easily become stuck between their parents’ conflict. When this occurs, children tend to take responsibility for their parents’ conflict and hurt; they take on the role of caring for their parents’ hurt and pain, and we see children struggling to manage the transitions between the two homes. It is your role as parents to shield your children from the ‘parent job’ and let them focus on the ‘kid job’.
So how do you manage your co-parent conflict and disagreements while making effective decisions for your kids?
- Remember, your ex-spouse/partner is still your child’s mom or dad. When talking about your co-parent with your child, remove the relational hurt you may feel and focus on the parent-parent dynamic for the betterment of your child. Let your child know that his or her parents are working together on the adult decisions, and they can focus on being a kid.
- Recognize and respect the difference in perception. You and your co-parent may have a difference of opinion, and that is okay.
- Focus on your key points or goals and those of your co-parent in your discussion. If conversation diverts and walks into previous hurts or unhelpful dialogue – Take a break, collect your thoughts, and come back to the main points.
In a VERY anxious time, presenting as a united front to your children will calm any nerves or Anxiety that may be occurring for your kids. When children see that their parents are in alignment, they are able to ‘do the kid job’ and feel safe knowing their parents are providing a healthy structure for them to live within. The parent job is hard; parenting across two households complicates the role even further. We are all doing the best we can with what we have. Make the decision each day to show up as your best self, for you, your children, and your family.