Co-Parenting and the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Crisis

Hi. I’m Brenda Ockun—publisher and founder of StepMom Magazine—here with a message for parents and stepparents who have shared or joint custody or whose children are young adults who either live with you or stay with you for extended periods.

The question of how to handle scheduled visitation, parenting time, and kids going back and forth between homes is a hot topic right now. It’s causing confusion and concern as the whole world adjusts to the idea of social distancing: stepfamilies included.

I’m not lawyer or a doctor. But lots of you have asked for my advice.

This is life unlike anyone has ever known it. There is no rule book and there is no legal precedent for dealing with a crisis like this one. The guidelines divorced or separated parents typically follow which relate to our kids, visitation and other agreements or situations have been upended.

So, how should we handle this?

Today, our co-parenting and shared visitation practices must be re-evaluated. In many cases, we’ll need to adjust them so that—along with the rest of the world—we do everything in our power to minimize everyone’s risk of carrying, exposing and transferring coronavirus.

For parents and stepparents, this means:

Now is the time to put aside any differences we may have.

Now is the time to put our families’ and kids’ well-being first.

Now is the time to do everything we can to truly communicate with one another.

Most importantly, for the health and safety of our communities and the world, NOW is the time for parents and stepparents to: STOP worrying about whose day or weekend it is and START talking about what kind of a schedule makes the most sense.

In light of this global pandemic—a situation we’re all in together—the RIGHT thing to do is to be sensible. EVEN if that means: deviating from our usual schedules, limiting or ceasing back-and-forth activity between homes and staying in contact from a distance.

No one wants to be separated from their child for an extended period of time—especially not during uncertain or scary times. But we all have a responsibility here. In some cases, we simply have to make difficult decisions. In some cases, you may need to allow that child to remain “in place” with the other parent to avoid risking their health, or the health of others.

Common sense is key.

Here are a few questions co-parents should ask themselves:

* Does anyone in your home work in health care?

* Does anyone in your home work with the elderly or others at-risk?

* Does anyone in your home have a compromised immune system?

* Does going back and forth increase any loved one’s risk of exposure?

If you said “Yes” to any of those, it’s likely best for your child to stay put. If yours is the home in least physical contact with other people, then having your child stay with you for an extended period of time might make more sense.

World-renowned stepfamily expert Patricia Papernow said: “Kids should NOT be going back and forth” and that “this is a TOUGH piece of reality, especially since this may go on for a long time.” In her view? “Kids should be in one place for the duration.”

Anything else, she added, is “just too dangerous—for everyone.” As an alternative, she suggests considering longer times between exchanges. Instead of weekly or every other week, stretch that to two, three or even four weeks at a time.

Look, I know many of you are already juggling fragile relationships. This kind of stress doesn’t help. But if you’re a parent or a stepparent who’s hesitating to speak up for fear of rocking the boat: THIS is the time to put your foot down, especially if having the kids go back and forth between homes threatens to put anyone at risk.

These are difficult times. And these are difficult decisions. So, please: Moms, Dads, Stepparents … put your differences aside and work together on this. If you believe your situation puts ANYONE in danger and you’re unable to work with the other home, find a workaround.

Contact your family doctor, therapists or attorney for personalized advice.

We have, as parents, have a wonderful opportunity to model what cooperation, common sense and courage look like. Remember, the kids are always watching. And they count on us to do right by them.

If being a stepmom is harder than you imagined, you’re not alone. We’re THE HOW-TO GUIDE for any woman who dates, lives with, or is married to someone who has kids. Join us today. We can help.


10 thoughts on “Co-Parenting and the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Crisis”

  1. Thank you for this. We were just having this discussion this morning. Thank you for making me feel like I have the right to speak up.

  2. We have a Very toxic relationship with my stepdaughters mother because she has been found by two therapists now to be an alienator who has withheld her from us at least twice now for very long periods of time. This is a goldmine for people like her who are opportunists, they will hide behind this excuse and withhold visitation and communication to the unforeseeable future. We are at a literal standoff until courts are back in session and something can be done. No amount of flexibility or understanding has ever appeased her. She is a taker and that is all she does unfortunately.

    1. We’re so sorry to hear this. Alienation only compounds the difficulties during times like these. There are lots of good books, articles and support networks to help alienated parents. We hope you find the support you need.

  3. We’re having the talk too. Two kids here. She wants to exchange one a week. I’m not inclined to agree. I don’t think the kids should travel at all. And with this plan the siblings wouldn’t see each other much at all. The two (plus) hour drive every weekend isn’t something we’re interested in either. Especially since she’s said in the past that something similar would have been “too much travel on the kids”. I’m less inclined to oblige.

  4. My husband is a healthcare provider, we are working at distancing him from my bio son and myself when he’s home. He had a Co worker test positive.

    We are having stepson stay with bio mom to limit his/their exposure. It also helps with stability for home schooling.

    Dad is going to be working long hours, it makes better sense for him to stay with his bio mom.

    Special times.

  5. I’m 36 weeks pregnant with my first. The care of my partners 3 kids are split between us and their Mum, who is a paramedic & her partner a fireman so both in front line roles. She would not accept having the kids full time and doubt she would accept us having them full time. And so now, due to the coronavirus pandemic I feel forced to move out so as I can continue social distancing until the baby is born. I am so low. I’m also asthmatic and so want to protect my baby from any risk exposure, but now also having to face the prospect of birth without my partner. Is anyone else experiencing the same dilema? I feel very alone.

  6. Hello Kate:
    I feel your helplessness, I’m Wife #3 and step/mom to three adult children and biological Mom to (boy/girl) adult twins. My Husband (#2) and I have been married for almost 30 years. My advice is that you should stay home, let your partner’s kids’ visit their Dad, while you stay in a designated area/room of the house; or if the baby’s room is ready, use a daybed or sofa temporarily. Ask your husband to be responsible for taking care of you. He might want to include his kids’ and teach them how to be more respectful And Loving of you and their new sibling. I too am asthmatic, during my pregnancy (twins), my husband was rarely home (Dentist, Working to support three families), we weren’t sure he would be with me when the time came. I was on bed rest for eight months and was very lonely; during this time, I learned how to “talk to God” And my Dog. We agreed that if my husband Wasn’t available for the birth of our twins, I could have one of my friends substitute for him. Well, he made it to the birthing, and two of my step children actually attended a “sibling” training class at the hospital. I was so surprised and believe me, I felt very “gifted” and grateful that day… twins, my husband, and my step kids! Hope this helps.

  7. This video message is excellent – thanks so much. Definitely validates all I’ve been thinking/feeling about visitation during this pandemic.

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