Separating from a spouse is emotional and stressful enough without adding quarantining together with children into the dynamic. Thousands of Americans are facing this exact issue amidst the pandemic. It is important to approach this uncomfortable and potentially toxic situation in a way that prioritizes the needs of the children. This is especially important when explaining a quarantine separation to children. It is important for them to understand the change in the family dynamic. For example, just because their parents need to live together temporarily, that doesn’t mean the parents are going to stay together.

Explaining a Quarantine Separation to Children

The same basic rules apply for talking to children about separation during quarantine as pre-COVID. Children do not need to know the reason behind the separation, just that their parents will no longer be together. Dr. Matthews suggests taking ownership of the change in the family dynamic so that the children do not blame themselves. The discussion with them should include answering their questions as honestly as possible in a manner appropriate for the children’s ages. 

After this important step, many parents immediately move forward with the divorce process and begin living in separate residences. COVID changes the ease of finding and moving into a new residence. Now, many couples are faced with living with their ex during a pending divorce, which may involve discussing heated topics with each other or even separately during events such as mediation.  The parents should take special care to protect the children from seeing the dirty details of the divorce process, such as by making sure they do not overhear either parent engaged in adult discussions about the divorce. 

If possible, try to divide up certain areas of the house. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have an extra bedroom, however, another area of the house, such as the living room, could be the new private area for a spouse. Living in separate areas of the house also helps children prepare for the new family dynamic by understanding that even though everyone is still under the same roof, it is temporary and the parents are separated. Children should be aware that, when able, the parents will ultimately separate.

Creative Coping Solutions

Sheltering-in-place could not have come at a worse time for couples already in the middle of a separation. This is especially true for the many couples who are unable to physically find a new residence during the pandemic. Although the implementation of virtual processes amidst the pandemic still allows discussions and negotiations during a divorce process to continue, these interactions can become awkward or downright heated when the couple still lives under the same roof. To ease conflict and create a more harmonious living situation for everyone, including the children, many experts suggest virtual therapy for the parents or even the children. If finding a virtual counselor is difficult, it is important to have a plan to deal with conflicts when tempers flare. This is pertinent to keep a harmonious environment in the house. 

Separation is a hard and emotional experience even without the added stresses of a pandemic. Be kind to yourself, and each day is a chance to try and do better. Plus, keep in mind that when you hire The Rebecca L. Palmer Law Group, you have a whole team of dedicated professionals standing behind you and supporting you through this difficult time. 

For more articles about navigating divorce during COVID, check out Time-Sharing During Crisis. Or subscribe to our newsletter to be notified of new posts.