David Lohkamp respects that his ex-wife is strict when taking precautions to prevent catching COVID-19. But when the pandemic hit, the pair had to navigate “her more motherly approach” and his “more risk-taking” nature for the sake of their two children — son Evan, 13, and daughter Penelope, 11.
"We both take pride in the fact that we get along with each other, so we didn't really fight, but we didn't necessarily agree 100 percent,” says Lohkamp, 52, of Rochester, New York. “I wasn't going to let stuff that I didn't think was a threat keep me away from my children."
Co-parenting can be challenging enough without the coronavirus creating increased tensions. But there are ways to strengthen that co-parenting teamwork even as exes navigate disagreements over social distancing rules, shifting schedules and other COVID-19-related issues.
Experts say it's all about increased communication, managing expectations and adapting to uncomfortable circumstances.
Be honest and upfront
"COVID brings home the fact that if you're actively co-parenting, what happens in the other house really does have an impact on you,” says Wendy Paris, author of Splitopia: Dispatches from Today's Good Divorce and How to Part Well.
Paris tells the story of a friend who wanted to drive with her son from their home in Boulder, Colorado, to Austin, Texas. Her son's father and his new wife were worried about exposure to the virus and didn't want them to go. The friend responded by sharing their route, how often they planned to stop and that they wouldn't need to go into any public places because she'd packed a tent, a portable toilet and food.
"Rather than having an emotional reaction, she tried to take his concerns seriously,” Paris says. “If she'd just said, ‘Don't tell me what to do,’ she would've been adding conflict to fear. But that information was really helpful."
Paris, 54, knows this firsthand. She and her ex-husband share custody of their 13-year-old son, Alexander. When her ex-husband took a cross-country flight on his own this summer, she was really uncomfortable, worried about their son's potential exposure to the virus upon his return. He showed her the mask and face shield he'd bought and told her he would be wearing gloves as well.
"I still wasn't thrilled,” she recalls, “but he was showing that he was taking my concerns and safety in general seriously, and it made me more reassured to know these details about his trip."
Some people are easier to talk to than others, particularly if a split was contentious.