Tips to co-parenting successfully and realistically

Rule number one for successful co-parenting: ‘Don’t be an asshole’. Our Parenty guest writer gets real about how to work with your ex.

Your relationship didn’t work out, which sucks. Trust me, I get it.

You’re angry and hurt and the last thing you want to do is have to play nice with the person you’re angry with, but guess what?

It’s not about you

That is probably the single most important thing you’re going to need to keep front and centre in your mind when dealing with your ex, at least in the beginning. You’re not doing it for you, you’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do for the wellbeing of your child.

Separating your hurt feelings as a partner from your feelings as a parent is not going to be easy. It will be the hardest thing you have to do, but it’s completely necessary if you want to make co-parenting successful.

You know your ex

Probably better than they know themselves in some cases. Be honest with yourself about who they are as a parent, not who they were as a partner. If you know that they’re a good person at heart and, most importantly, that they want to play a role in your child’s life, let them. This is important because it leads to my next point.

Don’t hold your child to ransom.

Honestly, just don’t do it. I know the power in the threat of “If you don’t do ‘insert whatever it is that you want’ then you won’t see ‘insert child’s name’.”

It is the magic phrase when you’re trying to get your way in an argument with your ex, but really (and I learned this the hard way), it reflects more on you than on the person you’re trying to punish.

It hurts you because you’re giving away some downtime that you could have used to take care of yourself, all for the sake of winning an argument. Trust me when I say this – You time is precious. Use it. Enjoy it.

More importantly, it hurts your child. Children don’t get that they are being held to ransom because of whatever disagreement their parents are having at the time. In their minds, they see it as one of their parents not wanting to see them or spend time with them. They blame themselves because they think that they’ve done something wrong. It messes with their confidence and their self-image later in life, all for the sake of proving a point.

Disagree in private and be a united front

These are two separate points that go together. It’s ok to have disagreements. No one is ever going to agree all the time, especially two parents that aren’t together anymore, just don’t do it in front of your kids. You may not always get along, but they don’t need to know that. What they need to know is that their parents respect each other even though they aren’t together. It shows them the value of respecting others even when you don’t agree with them and it shows them that you are a united front.

This is so important because kids have crazy Spidey senses with this kind of thing and they will exploit it. Not because they’re purposefully being crafty and manipulative evil geniuses but because if they can get away with it, they’ll certainly try. Don’t let them see the cracks, don’t let them use them against you.

Lastly and probably the most important advice I can give you on co-parenting is this:

Don’t be that crazy ex

Especially when they find someone new. You must accept that your ex is going to move on, as will you. If the person that they move on with is the real deal, you’re going to have to find a way to co-exist somehow. How you manage yourself in the early days is key. Keep an open mind and at least try to get to know them because chances are, they’ll be spending time with your child and that’s ok.

It’s ok to let new people in. A child cannot have too many people that love them and want to help them succeed. It’s also ok for you to be cautious and want to know the type of person that’s getting involved in your child’s life. Just do it constructively rather than destructively like a crazy ex would do, because that’s not going to enable any form of meaningful communication. All that will bring is hostility, which brings you back to square one of trying to build a healthy co-parenting environment for all involved.

It’s simple. Just don’t be an asshole.

I’m mainly stumbling through life blindly, trying to be a good co-parent while trying to juggle career dreams as a media business director in London. I turned my entire family’s life upside down when I chose to move from South Africa to London to chase said dreams, proving that it’s never too late to go for what you want and most likely everyone will forgive you eventually.

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