“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” – Henry Ford
Whether you have been co-parenting for years or are new to the experience, the restrictions we face this holiday season because of COVID-19 are unprecedented. Planning for your celebrations should be a joyous time for your children, for your extended family, and yes, for YOU. Patience and preparation can help create positive and happy memories for everyone.
Non-Violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D. (nonviolentcommunication.com) offers a simple, effective process for having conversations that may be uncomfortable or difficult. The four steps to the non-violent communication process are:
These processes can help enable you to be understood without placing blame or guilt on the other person. Expressing what you see, imagine, or feel (observation) gives you the opportunity to express your side of the situation and the focus remains there. Next, explaining how what you observe makes you feel again keeps the focus on the situation, not the other person. Then there is what you value (needs) which is defining your why. Finally, ask for what you want, and your request should be granted.
Here’s an example:
“I don’t think the kids should stay at your house when your family is there. They don’t take this seriously, and I can’t risk them getting sick.”
Instead, you could try saying:
“I know your family will be staying with you over the holidays. I am concerned the kids might be exposed to COVID-19 and am wondering if you are willing to discuss how we can adjust our regular visitation schedule to avoid that?”
“Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you had in mind.”
If you have a parenting plan, it’s likely that you and your partner agreed at some point, even if it doesn’t feel that way right now. Take time to process what needs to happen differently this year because of the pandemic. If your children are old enough, include them in the conversation(s) about what works to ensure everyone’s safety and security. Being flexible and patient enables your family to design a plan that doesn’t feel restrictive and allows the focus on having fun and celebrating. Being able to agree as a family, without involving your attorneys or the courts, takes a lot of patience that’s worth every moment!
Follow these steps when having the conversation about a holiday schedule:
- Set a time and place for the discussion. Include your children if appropriate.
- Create a simple agenda for the meeting. Knowing what will be discussed ahead of time allows both parties to be prepared for the meeting.
- Be flexible. Even if your parenting plan works on a regular basis, switching times, days, and weeks during this season may be necessary if the households will be different from the norm. If relatives are staying in one parent’s home, keeping the children safe needs to be discussed. Social distancing during the day works, but sharing sleeping quarters and/or bathrooms with those we haven’t been around can be a concern right now. Consider the options.
- Write out the schedule you create during this meeting. Be sure to give copies to everyone who needs to know it. That may include daycare facilities, grandparents, and other responsible people who will be involved in the plan.
- Who is going to be included in your holiday get together? Be sure they know what to expect regarding social distancing and wearing a mask.
- What do you need to change in your home so that your children will be safe and comfortable? Be sure to have sleeping arrangements ready for them.
- How will transportation and travel be handled? Be sure to check out the COVID-19 guidelines in your area, especially if the children are traveling longer distances and in public transportation.
- What about gifts from family outside mom’s and dad’s house? Have the conversation before your children open presents from grandparents and other relatives if you or your partner have concerns about it.
Following a parenting plan can be tricky, and this season is especially complicated. Staying patient and being prepared will help a lot. We at Bliss Law Group wish you joy and peace, today and always. For more resources or to schedule a consultation, call our office at 253-844-4412.