As schools in Michigan launch their 2020-2021 academic years, families are still in the thick of dealing with virtual vs. in-person vs. a hybrid approach.
As details and options change almost daily for districts and families, co-parents who are not in the same house may have a hard time working together to make these important decisions for their children.
But it IS possible!
The first step is to open the lines of communication before considering schooling options. If you already experience tension or difficulties in communicating, this can seem daunting. And, keep in mind, most parents are feeling a range of emotions brought on by the ongoing global pandemic, which does not make co-parenting any easier.
These steps can help set you up for successful co-parenting during these difficult times.
Step 1: Create a process for working together to make decisions
Try as hard as you can to set aside past grievances, emotions, and worries in favor of coming together on behalf of your kids.
Thousands of families are dealing with these difficult decisions, and none are equipped with the educational expertise to know which option is best!
That said, no one can make this decision for you. Each family must figure out what is best for their kids.
Even if you’ve made a decision already, know that as the situation changes, your decisions may change. Be prepared for the next round of negotiations. We will continue to be in a crisis mode as long as the pandemic continues, and education is upended as a result.
While emotions continue to run high, know that a process will structure conversations and decision-making, so that you can work together.
Step 2: Establish & Accept Basic Premises
When you’re in crisis, communication may be needed frequently, and sometimes literally by the minute. Co-parents cannot wait 3 days to respond to an email from an ex. Give each other the courtesy of quick communication during this time.
As you research school options, put everything aside to totally focus and keep each other apprised of new information. Forget about the ill-gotten communications of the past. This is a new time, with immediate needs that are more important than whatever grievances you’ve carried about one another.
Some of our clients have seen the unfortunate outcomes of delayed communications during this time. Families have lost out on pod teachers because they didn’t move fast enough – and they didn’t move fast enough because one co-parent delayed responding during the process.
This can happen in normal co-parenting, and it does not need to. The only result of delaying is that your children miss out on opportunities.
We’ve seen it happen with dance classes and athletics because parents couldn’t work quickly together. Now, facing actual educational options, how would you feel if your child missed out on the best scenario because you held a grudge toward your ex?
Step 3: Make Listening a Priority
Good communication is really about good listening. And that means hearing fully what the other parent says without waiting to jump in with your response or new points.
Make it a priority to really listen to each other about where the other person is coming from and what their worries and concerns are. Don’t dismiss their concerns – even if you don’t share them.
Dismissing your co-parent’s concerns makes them feel like they’re not being taken seriously. That leads to defensiveness and resentment, and a natural reaction is to withdraw or withhold approval to get back at the person who inflicted the hurt. This cycle never has a good outcome, so if you can avoid generating it, do!
Focus on validating the other person’s concerns, worries, experiences. You don’t have to agree. Just hear them and take their feelings into account when making decisions together.
Step 4: Recognize the Emotions
People are losing sight of the fact that emotions continue to swirl surrounding the pandemic. Most of us are in an emotional and panicked place – and we have been for the bulk of this year! Heightened emotions do not help when it comes to negotiations and sound decision-making.
Acknowledge that no school option at the moment is what either of you want for your children. This is a crisis. And when we are in crisis, we operate from a very emotional place, with logic and reason evaporating.
Step 5: Seek Help. Regularly & Often
In a crisis, everything should go toward crisis management. Schedule regular appointments with a therapist, together or separately, for help managing anxiety and maintaining calm.
Engage in yoga, exercise or meditation – even long walks in your neighborhood can be grounding. In a heightened state of emotional anxiety, old conflicts may arise, especially with an ex. Don’t let it creep into the important work you must do to face the current situation.
Are you having trouble navigating your back-to-school decisions? We are here to help! Click here to schedule an introductory call.