We are ALL at the mercy of COVID-19 right now. No one is immune to the rigors of sheltering in place. The impact of the virus and the resulting isolation are trying on everyone. One population, however, is facing some unique challenges.
During this unprecedented sheltering in place, children of divorce are generally under more stress than their peers who have two parents at home. This is especially true if the parents fail to see eye-to-eye as the result of a contentious divorce. Children are anxious and frightened by the changes in their lives right now and need stability and reassurance.
“It is of critical importance right now that divorced parents present as a united front,” says attorney Jessica Woll of Woll & Woll, P.C. in Birmingham. Woll specializes in divorce, but from a decidedly child-first perspective.
“Always remain child-centric,” she says. “Whatever decisions you make with your ex should be based on what’s best for your child or children. Especially during this time of crisis.”
Woll regularly helps her clients and others to navigate the challenges of co-parenting. In the last couple of weeks though, her services have been more in demand than ever as divorced parents try to determine the best ways to handle this unprecedented situation.
“To effectively co-parent right now, concessions have to be made for the sake of the children,” says Woll. “It’s not uncommon for parents to have different parenting styles, of course. But right now, I strongly recommended that parents err on the side of the parent who’s regarded as the cautious rulemaker. These times call for it.” This is especially key when it comes to agreeing on rules about social distancing in each household.
She also reminds parents to limit the amount of information to which their children are exposed. As tempting as it may be to remain transfixed on the news channels, exposing children to the 24/7 cycle of fearful rhetoric is far from ideal. It will only fuel their fears.
In addition, Woll stresses the importance of maintaining the schedule to which the children are accustomed in terms of custody. The Family Division of the Oakland County Circuit Court recently issued a statement reminding parents that pick up and drop off as dictated by a parenting schedule is not a violation of shelter in place. Woll also recommends that parents attempt to keep their children on the same schedule from one household to the other. This will provide stability in this time when so much is unknown.
As for Woll, who is also a single parent, she and her ex-husband have joined together to institute a mind-body-spirit approach with their daughter. Offering a balance of daily activities that are inspiring, centering, physically challenging and altruistic has eased their daughter’s anxiety, given her a greater sense of purpose, and helped her move more gracefully through this challenging situation.
Showing their daughter that they can work together as a united force for her best interest is sure to have a lasting impact that will go long beyond this shelter in place. For Woll, that’s the icing on the cake.