This article could be very short, as the answer is yes! My former wife and I are living proof of this – with much down to the support and advice given to me by Dads Unlimited.
So how can this been achieved?
Many of you reading this will be saying things like, “I cannot stand my former partner, and the way they behave”. The first thing you need to do is to put these feelings aside, and concentrate on putting your child first, remembering that you are both the child’s parents, not just you on your own. Your commitment is to your child, not your dislike of your former partner.
Forget the past
Some of you will have gone, or are going through a difficult period, in trying to gain time with your child. As a part of this process, unfortunately it is inevitable mud will be thrown. Your co-parenting relationship will be much stronger if you can put this to one side. There is nothing to be gained in holding a grudge, it will only result in further damaging your relationship, and in time potentially your child. Once you are at the point where you have put this to one side, never read historic correspondence between you and your ex again, it will just risk bringing up or trigger old feelings.
There are things that will be out of your control
One thing I have had to accept since separating, and starting on the journey of co-parenting, is that my daughter is now going to be brought up in two different households, with two different routines, rules, expectations etc. At first, I struggled with this, even finding myself messaging my former wife at times to question things my daughter had been doing at her house.
It is staggering how resilient children can be at adapting to their current situation. In my professional role, I cannot tell you the number of times I have heard teachers say that a child acts in a certain way in school, only for the parent to look confused. This is because the expectations and routines at school are different to at home, the child adapts to the different environments. It is the same when there are two households; it is okay that there is variance between the two. I always allow my daughter to brush her teeth first and I finish them off, while at her mother’s house it is the other way around. Does my daughter get confused or upset by this? No. She notices, but understands routines are different, this is okay. This sentiment goes for bigger issues as well. Trust your former partner, and they, in time, will do the same of you.
However, having matching bedtimes will help your child sleep properly, agree this together, the next paragraph comes into play here…!
You will not always get your way; compromise will help build the relationship
As with so much in life, you will not always get your way when co-parenting. However, if you can learn to compromise, your former partner will learn to do the same and all will benefit, most importantly your child. Remaining flexible enough to be fine about your child being collected a little earlier than normal one week so they can visit a family member, yes; you will lose some precious time with your child this week, but when it comes to wanting to do the same, you will see they will be more likely to oblige. Driving those extra miles to drop your child off, even though it is agreed your former partner will collect. All these things, in time, will build trust and help you work as a team.
Support one another
There will be times when both parents will struggle. By supporting each other, you are supporting your child. Remember this and always offer, even if you feel it will go unaccepted, to help when you see they are, or could be struggling.
A physical (be that electronic, or hard copy) pre-agreed calendar will help alleviate any confrontation. It is important for your child’s development for them to partake in a variety of activities, be that going on holiday, visiting family, or simply a day out to the beach. Knowing when you have pre-agreed longer periods with your child will help you plan for these developmental episodes. It is not nice being away from your child for extended periods, but remember; allowing this to happen is helping your child to develop. Agree to this where you can.
My former partner and I aim to have an agreed calendar, which we run from August to July (to fall in with the school holidays) by the previous Christmas. This gives us plenty of time to plan those important events in our daughter’s life. However, we are not afraid to request to step away from this calendar when there is something that comes up at short notice, and because we are both happy to compromise, this never leads to confrontation. A court order is not a calendar!
Find an approach to communication that works for you both. Not every day, but keeping your former partner in the loop about what is happening in your child’s life will help build trust. We do not have an agreed communication schedule, but we tend to give an update once a week with a few pictures showing what our daughter has been up to. This is nice to receive and allows you to talk to your child about what they have done, showing them you are aware, and care, about all aspects of their life. Find a level that works for you, knowing that this communication will benefit your child.
Never show your child anything but harmony between parents. If you need to have a ‘difficult’ conversation, have this after they are in bed, or when they are at school. Your child needs to understand that you and your former partner are united in bringing them up.
A big part of this is talking positively to your child about your former partner. Tell them they are lucky to have you both, two parents who love them equally – it is not a competition.
All of this will take time, and we all make mistakes when co-parenting. Do not be too hard on yourself when you do not get it right, and do not be overly critical of your former partner either. You just need to be ‘good-enough’.
I have been fortunate that my co-parenting journey has been a smooth one. However, I know that for some it will be harder to achieve. You may feel like you are actively trying to co-parent positively and your former partner is actively not. Stick with it, keep trying, and in time they will see the efforts you are going to and will start to change – this could be a long and slow process, but it is what is best for your child, so it is worth persevering with.
In time, it is possible to build a positive relationship with your former partner, as a co-parent.
By the time you are reading this, I would have already shared this article with my former partner to check she is happy with what I have written. Do I need to seek her permission to publish this, no. However, I respect her and would not allow others to read such a personal article if she was not happy. Maybe she will not be happy, and then you will not be reading it!