The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on stepfamilies around the world. Should you transition per usual? If you’re in a high-conflict situation, how do you communicate your concerns? What if the other family isn’t taking the same precautions you are—or they’re filling your stepchildren with unnecessary panic?
Our county judge has ruled that it’s business as usual, and we are required to exchange per our custody schedule according to the original school calendar with no interruption due to COVID-19 and potential exposure.
For context, my stepdaughter’s stepdad, my husband, and I all work outside the home normally. My husband has been ordered to work from home until further notice, and I’m preparing to limit my hours at (if not close down altogether) the store we own and operate in North Dallas. Her stepdad continues to work unchanged for now, but there are talks about shutting down there, too.
With the two of us (stepdad and me) potentially exposed to the virus, does it make sense for my stepdaughter to transition homes?
Here are my thoughts on COVID-19 and sharing custody.
Stop using it as an excuse.
Now is not the time to talk about how irresponsible, unhygienic, or uninformed the other parent is. (If you think your co-parent has a lot of shortcomings, this is probably why.)
Even in times of pandemic, you should be water, not gasoline.
Just because we are now facing chaos and uncertain times, you don’t now have the liberty to use this as an excuse to tear the other parent apart.
It’s not about ego.
Would it suck to go weeks without seeing your stepkids if they were quarantined at the other parent’s home and didn’t transition? Absolutely.
Would it be chaotic to homeschool and manage your stepkids if they were all quarantined in your home and didn’t transition? Absolutely.
But do we all still need to be flexible and accommodating during this time? Absolutely.
It may make perfect sense for your family to continue with the normal schedule and manage custody exchanges the same as you would before COVID-19 started spreading.
But if it doesn’t make sense for you to transition due to potential exposure at one house, put the family’s and children’s safety and wellness ahead of counting “our days” and your own ego.
Be mindful of your language.
No matter which side of the argument you find yourself on, be mindful of how you talk to and about others at this time.
Don’t say things like “Not practicing social distancing is completely irresponsible!” in front of your stepchildren who are preparing to go back to their other parent’s home, who doesn’t practice social distancing.
On the other hand, don’t say, “These people are completely overreacting! What a bunch of whackos!” when the stepkids’ other home is stocking up on nonperishable items and toilet paper in preparation for weeks of quarantine.
Always assume the best.
We should all operate under the assumption that everyone you encounter is doing the best they can.
These are unprecedented times, and we’re all using past experiences, the news media and other data we’re receiving, and our survival instincts to determine how best to proceed for our families.
Try to be kind and treat all others with compassion, including your co-parent, government leaders, and other stepmoms in online support groups.
P.S. If the kids are home for the foreseeable future, consider some of these educational games!