Carmen Campbell, a coach and advocate in wellness for single parents, shares her thoughts on co-parenting during lockdown and managing your co-parenting relationship when everything around you is in flux.
Being a single parent during a pandemic is pretty challenging, right? You might be feeling anxious about the state of the world at the moment. Are you left spinning with scenarios of how to manage shared care?
Never in our lifetime have we co-parented through a pandemic.
Maybe you’re wondering who is going to take care of the kids if you get sick? Or how to protect your children from infection when they’re moving between two homes? Maybe, the thought of social isolation is scarier than anything?
All this heightened anxiety is the perfect foundation for conflict with your co-parent. Let’s look at a few ways to smooth the ride as we navigate these unprecedented times.
Embrace the fluidity of change
It can be helpful to think of your co-parenting relationship as an ever-evolving dynamic. Like any other relationship, it changes day by day. Sometimes we’re nice, sometimes we’re frustrated and we forget. But regardless, there is a space where our lives still meet in the middle – a space where we are parents. It’s in this space where the decisions are made together – from the mundane to the super sensitive. And in times like these, it’s even more important to align on that space and be flexible to making change.
Communication is vital
It’s not always easy, right?
But right now we need to move past this. It’s time to take the lead, be an adult and lead by example. Start the conversation you need to have. Voice your concerns. Think through what you need to talk about.
What values do you align on when it comes to social distancing? What are your views on pulling the kids out of school? What happens if you both lose your jobs? Having these conversations is not always easy but they are important. In starting the conversation you can start working towards the right solution.
Live the mantra: kindness first, boundaries always
It might sound dramatic, but life as we know it is over. All of us can expect change in the coming months – be it economic, psychological, physical or social change.
In short, we’re all holding a lot right now. And having empathy for yourself and your co-parent is the human thing to do. Check in on each other and offer to help out when you see they are in need. Choosing kindness doesn’t mean sacrificing your values or tolerating inappropriate behaviour. The end goal is not always to be friends – that’s not a possibility for some people – but it’s not unreasonable to aim for friendly.
Create new rituals to deepen the connection between your children and your co-parent
We all find it challenging right now. Who thought this could happen? But there is so much good coming from this time too, and deeper connections between people are one of the biggest benefits. Think about all the opportunities to deepen connections as a family unit. In my experience, my co-parent does virtual story time most nights – a comforting ritual that’s deepening my daughter’s relationship with her dad.
Know when you need a back-up plan
Even with the best intentions, there is no guarantee our co-parents hold the same values as we do. The truth is often they don’t. And in this case, if aligning on a plan is not going to happen, move on. Turn your attention to building a support team elsewhere.
What are your needs? And who can you lean on to get support? You might need to have a conversation with a friend, or think about how your wider community can support you.
To thrive in your co-parenting relationship takes a lot of energy. And, of course, investing that energy is the right thing to do for your children.
Yet, no relationship is more important than the relationship you have with yourself. Invest as much energy into this relationship as any other. Embrace your own personal development. I can’t stress this enough. Date yourself, nourish your soul and nurture your future.
And, as much as self care in the form of a bubble bath is lovely, I’d invite you to answer some deeper questions. Like, how are you speaking to yourself today? What are you doing to take care of the future you? Who are you surrounding yourself with? Are you eating well? Are you getting the rest that you need, and listening to what you need today and every day?
About Carmen Campbell
Prior to being a single parent herself, Carmen indulged in 40 minutes of meditation a day, yoga a few times a week and annual meditation retreats in Bali. And then she had a baby, followed closely by a relationship breakdown, and her life was turned well and truly upside down. She realised pretty quickly that wellness for a single parent was a lot more of a challenge than she anticipated.
Ever since, Carmen has been on a mission to find her own personal wellness again – and in the process is redefining wellness for single parents.
She coaches clients to regain their emotional freedom, find their financial flow and develop respectful co parenting relationships – however bad the situation might be.
Carmen has a BA in psychology and is a certified Conscious Uncoupling Coach. She finds great purpose in coaching her clients to feel calm, connected and empowered in the life that they create.