(Below is an excerpt from a Q&A, "Can You Avoid Conflict When Everybody Is Home?" published by Luma Wealth in discussion with Frantz Ward Family Law Partner Katie Arthurs)
All around the world, families are confronting a new reality. Countless parents are furloughed or have transitioned to working from home. Many children are out of school, some taking classes online. If you and your family are in this situation, social distancing to avoid getting sick, you may be struggling with how to get things done and keep the peace when your family is spending all day at home.
We spoke with Katie Arthurs, a family law attorney with Frantz Ward LLP, for guidance. As a mediator and parenting coordinator, Katie counsels clients through difficult matters such as divorce. She has helped many families address issues of conflict and has answered some of the questions you may be asking about navigating the realities of staying at home.
Q: How can we peacefully co-exist under one roof, all day long?
A: Being confined with a spouse or children can increase stress and cause family discord. However, creating healthy boundaries, both physical and mental, can help. Assign separate spaces within your home or living versus working, adults versus children, or for each individual to have a quiet spot to get work done. Try to be patient with your family as everyone adapts to this new normal.
Q: How should responsibilities be divided?
A: To prevent arguments before they happen, speak with your family members about sharing responsibilities, delegating age-appropriate tasks and chores to children. If you're working from home with children, establish a "parenting time" schedule. Avoid confrontation by being clear and upfront about the parenting responsibilities to be covered, such as overseeing school assignments, meals, bathing and activities. And when it's your turn to parent, try to appreciate this found time you otherwise may not have had to enjoy your children.
Q: Our financial situation may suffer. What can we do to prepare?
A: Spouses should work together to review all income and expenses, establish a budget and have a clear picture of the family's assets and liabilities. Unexpected time at home can be used as an opportunity to take control of the family finances, and your Luma Wealth advisor is available to provide guidance.
Q: Everyone is a little on edge. How can we avoid contentious conversations?
A: Whether you're happily married, divorced or contemplating divorce, clear communication is key. In high stress situations, it may be best to address one issue at a time versus attempting to tackle multiple issues at once. Each person has an opinion, whether rational or emotional, and sometimes a person just needs to be heard. Parents should be aware of what they say, how they act, and how they treat each other. One lesson learned from divorce is that children know all. They see, hear and feel everything, especially marital conflict.
Q: How does co-parenting with an ex-spouse change during a health crisis?
A: Both parents should be actively involved in helping their children adjust. Agree on the best method for communicating, whether face-to-face, telephone, email, or text message, and agree to be respectful to each other and listen to the other person before responding. At the end of the discussion, make decisions as appropriate and move on - being careful to do what's best for your children.