Co-parenting. It seems to be a difficult concept for many seperated parents out there. Sometimes, its just one of the parents who make it difficult for the other. Let’s start by taking some time to think about what co-parenting is actually about. The act of co-parenting is when two parents are divorced, separated or no longer living together and they share the responsibilities of raising their child or children. It sounds easy but its more common to have many challenges in this kind of situation. Things like jealousy and resentment can be a negative impact on trying to work as a team. The one most affected by this are the kids.
Relationships have their ups and downs. Sometimes more down than up. Others will go down hard and never find themselves able to recover. I’ve had some good moments, bad moments and ugly moments. Compromise, communication and respect were all falling apart early on in the marriage. This of course lead to uncomfortable conversations and even arguments. Eventually, divorce became the conversation which was hard as no one wants to go through a marriage to then get divorced. Two things stood out that needed to be addressed immediately after the separation. One was to be my true self again. Losing faith in your own beliefs tends to be discouraging and often changes people. Two, was not having my daughter think that this is how a relationship should be like. I would want my daughter to be happy and treated fairly in a relationship. Sometimes relationships don’t workout and although that can be hard at times, it’s still ok as long as everyone was treated fairly and with respect. Here are some obstacles I have faced and things I find important when it comes to co-parenting and equally providing for your child.
Put Behind & Set Aside: So everyone goes there separate ways because the relationship has reached a point where it’s no longer repairable. It’s especially difficult when there’s a child involved. There may have been a financial breakdown, a lost of trust due to infidelity, a lack of communication or there hasn’t been any compromise. Eventually, one or both will emotionally breakdown and lose the passion to be in a relationship. The biggest and hardest thing here is to put those resentments, anger, jealousy and any other issues behind you. Your goal at this point is to continue to be the parent your child needs. Constantly living in anger or resentment is only putting your child in a negative environment. It’s about the child and helping him/her cope with everything and showing her that mommy and daddy can still be happy separately. Now this is not going to magically happen overnight but space will be best in the beginning. Once you figure out that relationship is over, moving on would be so much easier. Your focus should be to better yourself and to be there for your child. You should continue to support each other as parents within reason. Which brings me to my next focus.
Team Work: Working together for the child’s benefit is important, but can be taken way out of context sometimes. At this stage, the communication should only be about the child. Having a set schedule on when either parent will get the child is ideal. Sometimes one or both of the parents will work varied hours making a set schedule difficult. Coordinating a schedule for weeks to a month will help set things in place therefore giving each other more personal time back. Speaking of personal time, both parents should continue to go there separate ways and live there life however they choose. Communication should only be about the child. However, this is not always the case. One of the parents will find a way to make contact with the other. It may be disguised as important or urgent when in reality it’s something that could have waited. If this issue is raised with the parent, then they try to use guilt and say things to make it seem like you don’t really care about the child. If the child speaks to either parent everyday, that’s when information regarding school, health concerns and parenting routines should be discussed. This information should also be delivered with respect and consideration. Not demanding nor condescending. So before you make that phone call, you need to ask yourself, “Can I resolve this on my own? Can this wait until later when I call my child?”
Moving On: As either or both parents move on with their lives, new things start to happen. New job, new car, new residence or a new lifestyle. But the one at the top of the list that can be difficult for the other parent to accept, is a new relationship. A new person will come along that will have a positive impact on ones life and cares for the person for who they truly are and most importantly, treats your child as if the child was their own. It’s important that the child knows that this person is not the new mommy or daddy but can be a special friend. The parent in the relationship will need to have these conversations with the child so there are no surprises and also so they understand why things happened the way they did. If the child is really young, different conversations will need to happen as they grow older. The important thing here, is to include your child in this process but don’t make them feel like they’re in the middle of a situation. Now let’s talk about if you’re not the one in a relationship. One thing to know is that you have no say or control over the others life. Your only concern is the health and safety of the child and to trust that the other parent will also have this at the top of their mind. Having a new person in your child’s life can be difficult to accept. Will your child think this person is more fun? Will the child prefer to live with the new couple instead of you? Does this person do things that you haven’t done? All valid questions. The child will probably have more fun. It’s a new person they get to play with. The child may want to stay because like many children, the more the merrier. Each of us brings unique ideas of fun and want to try different things so its possible that the child will experience new things as well. Sometimes one of the parents may want to put many restrictions of what this new person can or can not do in fear that their job as a parent will be taken away. If you think that the new fun and new adventures your child experiences will determine your abilities in being a parent, maybe you should go back and reevaluate why you became a parent in the first place. Sure, you want to experience many things with your child and teach them the world. This, however, is very difficult when both parents are separated. Never the less, The child will never forget who their parents are and you hold a very special place in their heart. That’s a bond that can never be broken.
Being the Right Parent: As a parent, I want my child to continue to experience the world and learn new things everyday. I also want my child to enjoy every bit of their childhood. As a single father, I would hope that the new partner that enters my daughters life, will care for her and respect her as much as I do. At the end of the day, if something shall happen to her mother while under her care and her significant other is around, this is the person that will watch and care for my daughter until I arrive. There is a level of respect you should have for one another and you shouldn’t restrict your child from experiencing things because you feel like the new person is taking your job away. If there’s a new man around, let them take your son to the park and throw the ball around. Go ahead and watch some Sunday football together or take your daughter to the movies and get some ice cream afterwards. If there’s a new woman around, let the girls do a makeover on each other. Bake some goodies for desert or play together on their favorite video game. Creating a friendship is important in a new relationship. The parent, not in a relationship, should want your child to be happy. If your child speaks of this person in a positive way, you should continue to encourage that and be thankful. After all, your child’s happiness is what you should hope for as a parent.
Bring it all Together: Co-Parenting can be difficult if you let it. Not saying that it’s easy but holding on to a past relationship or having a fear that your child will have a replacement for you will definitely make moving on a challenge. The quicker you’re able to realize the reality of what is, the quicker you can open up the possibilities of what can be. The child is the focus for the seperated parents. The goal is to help them understand the situation and include them with the process. Go out and be the “better you”. Achieve things you’ve always wanted to. A healthy and positive lifestyle will not only benefit you, but also benefit your child. This is who you’re doing it for.
So now ask yourself…….. Can you co-parent?
Credits and Resources: Feature image – iStockphoto.com , first quote – Quotefancy.com , family figure image – Metroparent.com by Abby Green , second quote – Quotesaboutmovingonn.blogspot.com