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Do it for the children: avoiding spousal quarantine quarrels

As the Covid-19 pandemic sweeps across the US and states are enforcing different levels of quarantine mandates, families are experiencing new frontiers of cohabitation. To call it cabin fever is an understatement–for couples whose relationship was already on the rocks, being forced to stay home in quarantine with one another for the foreseeable future might seem more like a waking nightmare.

If divorce was already looming on the horizon, the anxiety from feeling trapped can pile up quickly. Add children into the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for stress that might leave you wishing you could hitch a ride to another planet.

Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the impact of quarantine on everyone’s mental health—especially your children’s.

Keep the peace while helping your kids cope

Coupled with a bit of mindfulness, these tips can help you get to the other side of the pandemic with your sanity (mostly) intact:

  • Set boundaries with your spouse. This might include doling out chores, scheduling down time from parenting for one another, creating routines that minimize face-to-face interactions and setting rules for communicating during a disagreement. Acknowledge to one another that you’re likely even more stressed than usual; anxiety is high for most people right now, so don’t let it blindside you and result in a major blowup, whether with each other or with the kids.
  • Schedule in “me” time whenever possible. Since it’s not always possible to be completely alone during quarantine, the next best thing is to claim periods of time for yourself in a part of the house that’s separate from the others, whether it’s taking a long bubble bath, reading a book alone in a room of the house or any other solitary activity. Be sure to communicate the terms of this request to your spouse and children, and honor their own alone time requests. With some respite, you’ll also be more a more present parent.
  • Enjoy one-on-one parent time with your kids. You and your spouse may have trouble even sitting at the table together to play a family board game without bickering or fighting, so quality time with your focus entirely the kids is a way to keep them engaged while keeping the peace. Try baking a cake together, or letting them help make dinner.
  • Try to set and stick to a daily routine. Although we’re facing a new normal, there are still ways to help your kids feel like things are closer to business as usual while keeping yourself organized. Have them eat lunch at the same time every day, start virtual schooling at the time their regular school day begins, and give them a home version of recess. You and your spouse will benefit from the structure, too.

Remember: how you and your spouse demonstrate crisis response will have a lifelong impact on your kids, so take this time to practice mindfulness and healthy boundaries with each other.