As if the relationship you thought would last forever isn’t enough for you to come to terms with, you’ve a small human in the middle of it all to consider. Their entire life is about to literally be split in two; two homes, two routines and a whole lot of confusion, so I want to start by reminding you how resilient children really are and that you will all be okay. It’s a really daunting decision to come to, deciding to get a divorce or separating from a long-term partner, in fact it is HUGE. Chances are if you’re married, you’ve built a home together, share bank accounts, pets and you’ve got to figure out how to divide all of those things; except you can’t simply split a child in two, so regardless of any emotions you may be feeling towards your once significant other, you’ve got to learn to put that to one side when the topic of co-parenting comes to the table and here is our guide to co-parenting.
Firstly you’ve both got to be ready to co-parent, if you’ve ended on bad terms this may not be something you feel ready for, in which instance I would suggest reading up on parallel parenting. Being co-parents means being a team, both of you have to agree that your relationship history together is not part of the equation, the happy, healthy raising of a child between two households is the absolute priority.
Now, if you’re lucky, like I must admit I have been, you’re divorce/separation will be going smoothly and being the best parents you can be is of the upmost importance for you both, which frankly makes the whole process easier to adapt to, for both you and your child. So here are a few things that have helped us adapt to our new solo parenting roles:
GUIDE TO CO-PARENTING
I know, I know, this seems like an obvious one, but hear me out. There’s a reason you’re getting separating and the chances are, whatever the circumstances of your split, that prior to the decision to go your separate ways, communication has broken down between the two of you and it’s time to learn to do that again, shoddy I know when they are probably the last person you feel like talking to right now, but remember, this part of the process isn’t about how you feel towards your ex, it’s about remaining good parents.
You’ve got to communicate you’re parenting wishes, things you are and are not comfortable with happening, i.e. meeting new partners. But also the simple things; how your child has been sleeping, eating, are they feeling unwell? These things need to be passed between you both to make sure your child remains the focus and is kept happy and healthy.
You may have a steadfast routine set in place, which is great, you both have your set days/nights/weekends, but life isn’t always able to stick to a strict timetable so you’ve got to learn to bend this routine from time to time.
Maybe you or your ex-partner wishes to take a vacation (whether alone or with the kids!), or your girls are calling for a brunch date next Saturday that you’d really like to attend. Communicate these things; work out how you can switch your days around for that particular date, together. Be sure to do this before committing to any plans outside of your co-parenting routine to minimise any friction about having to change the routine.
Consistency between households
You can’t start playing good cop, bad cop here, it’s confusing for your child and unfair to the other parent (whichever side this is coming from) so please, work out certain things that need to be agreed upon; a few random examples, no chocolate for breakfast (unless of course it’s Easter or Christmas!), bedtime, screen time, etc. All of these things link with the need for good communication! So sit down and work out clear boundaries that everyone is happy with, this way everyone is on the same page and your child has a consistent environment whichever household they are in.
Leave the child out of conversations
Regardless how firm set you are on being a great co-parenting team, there will likely be occasions where conflicts in opinions will happen and things may get heated. So always have any conversations where you feel the need to raise a concern or anything that requires a change to your co-parenting plan, away from your child. You don’t want them to see tension between you, they need to know that both of their parents are happy and can get along.
Remember, you’re trying to create a happy environment for your child, you cannot bring negative energy into their space, it will create confusion for them.
Enjoy your solo time!
Last, but by no means least, enjoy your new free time! Becoming a parent consumes your entire life, but you’ve now been granted this free time to fall back in love with yourself. So go do it, go be adventurous, take a trip, dye your hair, take yourself for lunch, do what makes YOU happy, because believe me, you deserve it. You’ve just gone through a massive life change and there is probably some pretty big emotions to sift through, so use this time to sit with those emotions, process them and come to terms with what it was that was missing in your relationship and become the person that gives you those things.
Choosing to separate from an unhappy relationship is an incredibly brave thing to do; to leave behind the life you created and expected to last a lifetime is monumental. But please hear this, choosing to leave that relationship and raising a child between two households does not make you a bad parent, it makes you a great one. Because you cannot raise a child in an unhealthy environment and expect them to grow up happy and well nurtured. You’ve done the right thing, for yourself and your child. You should be so proud of yourself.
We hope this guide to co-parenting has helped if you are newly separated or struggling to figure things out.