Today I really wanted to share a few tips for successful co-parenting. One of my most asked questions (pretty much on a weekly basis) is how Evie’s Dad and I do it. We’ve been successfully co-parenting for about two years now, without many hiccups. In fact, I think we are doing perfectly ok, if not a little better than that, with raising a child who lives in two homes.
If you’ve not heard of the term before, co-parenting or ‘shared parenting’ is where two people are trying to raise a child together, despite not living together or being romantically involved.
There are a lot of situations that require people to co-parent. Maybe your co-parenting after separation, maybe you’ve had a baby with a friend, or maybe you’ve found a sperm or egg doner and you’ve decided to both raise the baby together.
Are You Looking For A Co-Parent?
The other day I did see an add saying ‘Looking For Someone To Have My Baby’. It opened my eyes to the fact that co-parenting isn’t necessarily just for those who have separated. If you are trying to find a co-parent, do check out a wonderful sight called ‘Co-Parents’. Not only does it connect you to potential sperm or egg doners, but there is also the option on their website to find a ‘co-parent’ who will raise a child alongside you. They also have an amazing blog with lots more tips on how to raise a baby together.
Co-Parenting For Everyone
Regardless of your situation, co-parenting requires a lot of team work, patience, an open-mind and negotiation. But, as time goes on, it does becomes complete second nature and it is completely possible to raise a happy, loved and fulfilled child who lives in two homes.
For me, my co-parenting started after the breakdown of a relationship. Despite having our differences and going our separate ways, we’ve finally got this co-parenting thing down and I really couldn’t ask for a better team mate. Our co-parenting journey hasn’t always been plain sailing. There have been some bumps in the road. But, we have learnt the ins and outs of how to raise a child together in the best way. So, here are my…
7 Tips For Successful Co-Parenting
One of the reasons I have been able to successfully co-parent with Evie’s dad, is because I see how much he loves his daughter and I also respect him completely as a parent. Regardless of no longer being in a relationship together, we are bound together forever by our child. So we may as well try our absolute hardest to make it work.
1. Communicate Regularly
My first tip for successful co-parenting is to communicate regularly. My daughters dad and I regularly update each other with pictures and information about Evie. So, even when its a day that she’s not with one us, we still feel like we are connected with her and that we are a part of her life.
We also make sure that we openly share nursery/school updates, upcoming appointments (so the other has the option to attend), our child’s behaviour (good or bad), new rules and things she has been doing that day.
If you don’t want to just rely on texts and phone calls, there are also some great co-parenting apps that help you to communicate regularly and stay organised (you can find some great ones here). Some have inbuilt ‘shared’ calendars, some help you keep track of your joint child finances and others help you to share regular picture updates, all without the need to constantly be in conversation with each other.
2. Be Each Others Cheerleader
One big tip for successfully co-parenting is to not talk negatively about each other in front of your children. Even if you have never been romantically involved, there will still be things the other parent does that you might not like. Or maybe you have separated and you really don’t get on well with your co-parent at all. Whatever your situation, just don’t rave about this in front of your kids.
Growing up in a separated family, I know first hand how conflicted you feel when one parent trash talks another in front of you. I can 100% vouch for the fact that this negative talk has more of an effect on the child, than it does the other parent. Instead practise being each others cheerleader.
Evie’s dad and I never fail to tell our daughter positive things about each other. We may not have worked in a relationship, but we both have parenting strengths that the other doesn’t. Bringing these strengths up in front of your child helps them to grow a lot more respect for both of you. It will strengthen your family bond and will encourage them to see the good in both parents.
3. Consistent Rules
My third tip for co-parenting successfully is to implement consistent rules. But, do remember that rules are never going to 100% be the same at each house. Each of you has different parenting styles, so don’t expect your co-parent to do everything exactly how you would. However, do try and provide a united front and share the same general ground rules.
Children thrive on consistent routines and rules. If they are allowed to do something at one house and not the other, this lack of consistency will just confuse them. Too many different rules will negatively affect your child’s behaviour and will make them struggle to go back and forth between each house.
When I was younger my Mum encouraged healthy eating, whereas my dad wasn’t bothered if we ate lots of chocolate and junk food. My Mum also had strict rules about bedtime and screen time, whereas my dad had no rules at all. I grew up feeling like two very different people and I found that transitioning from one house to the other was so difficult. Now, with my own daughter in the same situation, we are trying really hard to keep things as similar as possible, so she doesn’t grow up feeling this way.
This leads me into my next tip for successful co-parenting…
4. Make Big Decisions Together
If you really want to make co-parenting work, make as many ‘parenting’ decisions together as you can. Where is your child going to go to school or nursery? What is there curfew or bedtime? How should you deal with certain behaviours? How will you share birthdays and holidays? Where and when will you pick up the kids on transition days? How long will you wait before introducing a new partner?
There are so many decisions to make, but including each other in as many as possible and especially the ‘big’ ones is a must for successful co-parenting.
Quite often I will also ring and ask Evie’s dad for help in deciding the small things. Especially how to deal with new behaviours. For example, recently my three year old started throwing constant tantrums and I was stumped on how to deal with it. I reached out for help and advice and together we worked out a way to prevent the tantrums. Making decisions together also helps to reinforce your respect for each other and to keep consistency at both houses.
5. Schedule in Co-Parent Meet Ups
Making decisions together, no matter how big or small, sometimes requires meeting face to face. My next tip for co-parenting successfully is to schedule regular meet-ups. Try not to use the 5 minutes spare you have in your child’s drop off time, to offload lots of information or to drop some big life news. But, schedule in time where you can sit down and talk properly.
Book yourselves in a ‘co-parent’ meet up as often as necessary. Meeting face to face regularly to discuss school, birthdays, activities, new information and whether the schedule is working is so important.
Also use this time to plan ahead. I often meet up with Evie’s dad to pre-plan any holidays we want to book (which will affect our schedule), to pre-book medical appointments for Evie, to plan birthday gifts or parties and to discuss big life changes that are happening in both our personal lives (maybe a new partner or a new job). Don’t forget to communicate what is happening with ‘you’. There is nothing worse than finding out a big life change about your co-parent, from your child first. No they don’t need to know everything about your life, but its good to keep them informed on things that will affect your child.
6. Help Make Back And Forth Easier For Your Kids
It’s not easy for kids to hop back from one house to the other, even if you’ve never lived together or been romantically involved. Try and make the transition of house hopping, as smooth as possible for your kids.
A few things that work for us is getting Evie to choose a few things to take with her from one house to the other. She does this every time she goes and things she takes ranges from big items; such as her bike, to littler items; such as a few soft toys. Some co-parents get funny about their kids taking ‘expensive’ toys, or things they’ve paid for, to the other parents house. Just remember, that it is your kids toy, so does it matter if it doesn’t come back? Plus, you can always ask for them to bring it back with them at the end of their time there.
Another thing we’ve had to do is to work out the best way to ‘swap’. In the past I would drop Evie to her dads work. Bu,t when he left his job he started to pick her up from my house, we found that our old smooth transfers were now really emotional and difficult for Evie. We soon realised she didn’t like being ‘picked up’ and much preferred being ‘dropped off’. If your child finds it hard on ‘swap over’ days, try working out which way works best for them.
7. Be Open To Change – Big And Small
My last tip for co-parenting successfully is to be open and prepared for changes. Regardless of your situation and set-up now, it’s unlikely to go on as it is forever. Maybe something big happens like one of you gets a new job, one of you decided to move overseas, or a new partner or sibling comes into the mix.
Maybe something smaller happens, like you have a change in work rota and you have to change the days that you see your child. Or maybe there is an event you really want to take your kids to, but it happens to fall on a day they’re with their other parent. Be as flexible with each other as you can and be prepared to face changes.
If needs must, sit down and work things out when they arise, particularly with the big things. Just remember that your children come first and the changes are going to affect them too. They will react how you do, so the best thing is to just go with the flow and work out how you adapt your situation as best you can.
So those were my tips for how to co-parent successfully. Regardless of your situation, co-parenting can be tricky. Just remember, co-parenting doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be the best of friends, have the best relationship, or even like each other. But, it does require respect for each other, a lot of communication, an open mind and unconditional love for your children.
Remember, there will always be bumps in the road, but your co-parent is your team mate and you’re kind of in it forever, so try and make it work as best you can.
I also can’t finish this post without a quick thank you to my co-parent, who will probably read this. Thank you so much Jamie for being the most incredible Dad to our daughter. No matter the hurdles or life changes we face, you never fail to put her first and to work out what is best for our family collectively. My respect for you does nothing but grow and I really couldn’t ask for a better person to raise a child with.
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