Co-parents face many challenges which can include scheduling custody, sharing two households, and trying to communicate how to protect their child’s emotional health. COVID-19 has intensified the normal challenges of making decisions for their children which can add stress to an already fragile communication dialogue.
Recently, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for children twelve and older. The CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics have recommended vaccinating children ages 12 and older who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. But what happens when you share joint custody, but your co-parent disagrees with you on a health decision for your child?
When exes are in conflict over any issue involving their child, they may find old issues resurfacing such as mistrust, betrayal, or fear. These feelings often dictate the escalation of the problem. I have several suggestions that can help you react in a way that will benefit your child’s emotional health and not cause further hurt from your ex.
· Stay consistent and find common ground. Parents must remember this is stressful for everyone including their child. Keep arguing to a minimum and never in front of the child. Discuss areas you both agree on and keep practicing these, so your child has the security of knowing what to expect.
· Write down your concerns. For some parents, it’s easier to write down your concerns and thoughts rather than trying to express them directly to your partner. This helps calm the frenzied communication that often happens when exes try to communicate their feelings and frustrations.
· Discuss medical concerns regarding your child with a licensed medical professional. Bring the concerns from both co-parents to a licensed medical professional whom you both trust. Ask for information to help address concerns and questions that you may have.
· Talk to a divorce mediator. Mediators specialize in helping couples talk and listen to each other. If you are feeling that your partner won’t listen to you or your concerns, a divorce mediator is helpful. They help guide the focus on what is most important (your child’s health) and set healthy boundaries so both partners feel heard and understood.
· Talk directly to your ex without passing messages through the children. Never put your child in a position that makes them decide or choose a parent. When you use your child as a messenger to communicate what you cannot, they feel anxious, guilty, and ashamed. Love your child enough to be the adult and keep the discussion between you and your ex.
· Ultimately, if you cannot work it out, the courts will. Going to court is expensive, time consuming, and stressful. If you do go to court, it’s wise to tell your children (according to their developmental stage) that you are working out a big decision with their mom/dad. Don’t blame the ex or make your child feel like they are the cause for your distress. Kids usually know something is going on and become anxious, so parents should explain appropriately to children.
Co-parenting is never easy. Remind yourself that the right decision is the decision that is in the best interest of the child