Contributed by Kristin Pawlik
What Happens in One House…. Since March of 2020, Arkansas’ parents may have gotten the hang of coordinating AMI/virtual school, scheduling grocery deliveries, keeping track of masks and hand sanitizer and learning the difference between a PCR test and an antigen test. As the number of active Covid-19 cases in Arkansas hits a new record nearly each day, divorced parents get to add “quarantine quarreling” to the list of co-parenting challenges. What happens when the kids get exposed at Dad’s house? Do they quarantine at Mom’s? What happens when Mom is exposed? Does she lose his time with the kids? If one child is positive and another is negative, should they be split up for the isolation period? Unfortunately, there are not written guidelines or Orders of the Courts to plainly answer these questions. Here are some suggestions to help you co-parent through the pandemic:
1. Plan. Talk about a quarantine plan with the other before it happens. It is likely that someone in the family will be exposed during this pandemic; having a plan in place ahead of time will reduce stress, avoid hurt feelings and resentment, and limit risk to other family members. Using CDC guidelines, determine what triggers a quarantine, decide at which home a child exposed at school will quarantine, talk about what will happen if a parent is exposed, and agree on what can be done to limit risk of exposure. Discuss what each of you considers acceptable risks and activities. Talk about vulnerable family members who may be at risk, and discuss options for limiting risk in each household, including travel, sporting events and group gatherings.
2. When Quarantine is required, keep in touch (virtually). Even if you are the parent quarantining with the kids this time, next time you could be the one isolated. Treat the other parent as you would wish to be treated. Increase your own communication with the other parent. Permit frequent FaceTime or Zoom visits between the kids and the other parent. Provide frequent updates on symptoms and testing results. Offer to deliver food, medicine and clothing or drop off puzzles, games or schoolwork.
3. After Quarantine, reconnect. Using CDC guidelines, identify a return date as soon as quarantine can be safely ended. Consider allowing the other parent extra time when quarantine is over. Resist the urge to “punish” an exposed parent for triggering a quarantine- it is likely that your children who will suffer if access to their mom or dad is restricted. Remember, it is not unusual for a family to experience multiple periods of quarantine during this pandemic, so treat the other parent with as much grace as you can muster.
Parenting after divorce is challenging in the best of times. Adopting a quarantine plan for parenting will make it easier on your kids- and you- during this most difficult of times.