Social Isolation July 2020

By 6th August 2020 Blog

Separation is never easy and trying to work out how to co parent apart is almost always complex. If you are reading this blog you are on the Family Mediation NI website I’m guessing you could use some tips on how to do this well especially with the unfolding events of lockdown and Covid-19. 

We all struggle to make sense of a world where uncertainty seems to be the only sure thing in our lives;  here in FMNI, like many other organisations, we are paying close attention to the pandemic and are looking for ways to make changes in  how we do our work in supporting parents in the separation process.

We have been asking ourselves, ‘How can we best help you in your struggle to parent as you separate and attempt to make sense of this Covid-19 context’?  

Now with children at home, and parents coping with the unexpected new difficulties – loss of employment or employment in the essential services, money issues, and most of the family confined to home.  The stresses and strains of living in close proximity in these days of isolation are very real.  These anxieties have arisen swiftly, almost without warning, as you navigate separation. 

This blog is for parents; those of you who are separating or have separated and are redefining how you co parent apart.  It will deal with any matters that arise about co-parenting as you strive to cope in these times of separation and of “social isolation.” 

Moving forward this process will be determined by guest posts – where you lead, we will follow with the intention to offer you some supportive space for communication, sharing relevant resources and maybe sharing experiences. 

Let me introduce myself, my name is Mary and as well as a mediator with FMNI I also work in adult education. I live in south Down with my aging dog Penny and am mother to two girls and grandmother to two boys. I love where I live and delight that I can walk in the morning in the forest, isolated from other people but connected to nature. For first week, I’d like to share some of my shock reaction to this Covid-19 to see how it resonates with you. 

For the first week, I staggered between denial and despair: No, this can’t be so bad, this is a bit of over reaction…  to ..I m not sure we can survive this.. the end of the human species.. my children, grandchildren , our community.. how will it be ? 

Awakening in the middle of the night and those hours before dawn with my mind racing, wanting sleep to come, wanting to numb out. I spent some days staggering between denial and despair until I began to realise that I am coming to terms with shock. That is how I have felt these days. This pandemic is pretty upsetting, so I guess we are all reeling from shock.

Reacting to shock has some similarities in to how we react to conflict; we tend to fall into survival mode and react from a position of fight, flight or freeze. 

Now any shock to our being will produce this physiological reaction.  This shock is now a collective shock that is coming into all of our lives, at diverse moments and at diverse intensities.  We are all hard wired for this reactive behaviour. 

For me, I have practised over the years to make different choices to my reactive behaviour of flight.  I’m thankful for my life’s experiences in learning to be present and not to be in flight. Breathe is our biggest friend – a simple breathing exercise can regulate our central nervous system and allow us to be in the present moment.

I find solace in my garden these days – I have neglected my garden over years of being busy, out there, doing “important” work – these days my hands in the earth, I sense this is the important work. My garden responds to the attention I give it, forgiving of the years of neglect. The garden is one of the ways I’m taking care of myself. 

I am fortunate to have a patch of garden, but everyone can do something similar whether that is a few herbs in the kitchen window, a house plant or your garden. 

I don’t like the term “social distance” I question it; we need to be physically distancing, but we need to be socially connected and this means moving into social media to keep our connections with one and other.

Gardening, trying out new ways to connect on social media, are a few of my ways of moving forward positively. Taking care of me and knowing that I need to be present for others. 

What are yours? 

Remember the bygone days, when we travelled by air regularly? Those where the days, when airline stewards told us at the beginning of every flight, “please put on your own oxygen mask first, then take care of those around you”. 


Think about your own oxygen mask: 

What sustains you on a daily basis?
How can we best help you in role as parent, in process of separation?
In your struggle to make sense of the way ahead, how are you co-parenting apart? 


Some useful articles that I think might be helpful. The links are below.

Parenting Apart: How Separated and Divorced Parents Can Raise Happy and Secure Kids

By Christine McGhee