The current self-isolation guidance which many countries have brought into effect as a measure to reduce the impact of the Coronavirus may be particularly difficult for those who are divorced or going through a separation.
Emotionally this situation heaps on a lot of additional stress on divorcing couples and families at a time that was already unsettled and uncertain but have hope. This too will pass. You are not alone. In this blog, we wanted to share some thoughts on choices you can make to make the best of the situation you are in.
There’s no doubt that this situation is going to be incredibly difficult for a lot of families for potentially quite a long time. It is unprecedented and organisations of all sorts are dusting off emergency protocols and scrambling to work out how best to continue within the confines of our new reality.
Solicitors are already telling us that the court system is currently only focusing on the most urgent cases, typically those including children that are at risk. Therefore it is fair to assume that we will all need to wait longer for divorces, financial settlements and childcare arrangements.
What might this situation mean for you?
– Perhaps this means you are having to self-isolate completely alone, possibly in a new home with new neighbours at a time when you are emotionally vulnerable and your friendships are shifting as friends “take sides” in your separation?
– Perhaps you are still having to live with your ex because you hadn’t as yet organised new living arrangements or the financial implications of the crisis mean that you cannot afford to change this situation for the foreseeable future?
– Perhaps all of the childcare is falling to you as you self-isolate as a single parent, including attempting homeschooling combined with remote working and/or loss of income?
– Perhaps you won’t be able to see your children at all during this time? In situations where organising childcare arrangements are already fraught your partner might not be very supportive of remote contact.
– Perhaps as a child of divorcing parents, you won’t be able to see your Mum or Dad at all during this time.
Positive choices you can make to support recovery from divorce and separation
Don’t get isolated
Physical self-isolation doesn’t have to mean loneliness. Make sure you have remote contact with others on a daily basis. It is really easy to get isolated and end up feeling down. Reach out to friends and family. It’s also a good idea to make some of this contact video chat – something about seeing the other person will help you feel more connected. There’s lots of technology that can help you create online video meetings with individuals and groups such as Skype, Zoom and Houseparty.
Ask for help
If you are younger and healthy you might be feeling that you should be the last on the list to receive help at this time but mental health is just as important as physical wellbeing. The Coronavirus crisis doesn’t mean you don’t still need to process what is happening to you. If you need help ask friends and family and be specific about your needs.
Take the opportunity to heal
It may be that this crisis creates some space in your life that you can use to do some of the emotional heavy lifting needed to heal fully. Often with busy lifestyles, it can be hard to make enough time to grieve what you have lost and make the time to fully recover. This enforced time at home is a good opportunity to pause, rest, consider your options. Perhaps you’d like to read a self-development book, learn to meditate or make more time for self-care?
Your ex might be the very last person you want to be kind to but in these difficult times, avoiding unnecessary arguments and unkindness is better for everyone. Avoid the temptation to use this situation to “punish” your ex. Especially if you are having to live together or co-parent through these difficult times. Avoid pettiness and support your children to have good relationships with both parents. (Even if this means going out of your way to set up remote video chats and phone calls for your children.)
Try to take the heat out of any conflict
As much as you can try to take the heat out of any conflict with your ex, this is good advice at any time but especially now whilst there is so much stress and uncertainty. Practice active listening and try to focus on the facts of any issues you are trying to work through rather than the feelings associated with them. (Work through the feelings separately with friends or the support of a counsellor). Don’t try to sort everything out all at once. Focus on the issues one at a time in the order of those that are most important to you and your ex.
Agree some co-parenting ground rules during the Covid-19 crisis with your ex
The current crisis will be causing children a lot of anxiety so it is even more important that parents do the best they can to support children to have good relationships with both parents. Childcare arrangements may have to change during this time. To avoid friction with your ex, try to arrange some ground rules to use whilst the crisis is ongoing. These might include more video calls and communications between the children and the parent they don’t live with and joint discussion about how to reassure children. You might also consider if there are ways the absent parent can reduce the workload for the parent who is with the children. Are there opportunities to connect remotely to help with homeschooling?
We hope you find these pointers helpful. If you have experiences and tips for others about dealing with divorce and separation during these extraordinary times we’d love to hear from you. Please email us at [email protected]