21 Jun What I learned my first year of co-parenting
What I learned my first year of co-parenting – It’s tough after any relationship breaks down, regardless if you have kids or not, but having kids means you are always going to have some sort of a relationship with your ex. Here’s what I learned my first year of co-parenting that helped me keep that relationship civil and benefited my kids the most.
1. Try not to worry
Your first thought might be that splitting with your partner will ruin your kid’s lives as well as your own. At first, that’s what if felt like, between not seeing the kids as much as you used to, then when you do see them it’s not quite how it used to be (as least at first). What I found was both the kids and I needed stability, and that both their mum and I needed to set limits and have a plan we stick to, as well as being attentive to how the kids are being and letting them know that whatever happened we love them.
The kids are going to be sad about the split, but I found trying to keep upbeat and to put a positive spin on something they are upset about makes them feel better most of the time. A good example of this is when my kids are upset about going back to their mum’s house I’ll make a big deal about how their mum will be really looking forward to seeing them and possibly mention something fun that they are doing with their mum that day, cinema, park etc…As I split the kids time with my ex 50/50 I’ll also remind them they’re only ever a few days away from coming back to me and I’ll ask them what they would like to do (within reason 😊) when they next come to stay.
2. Quality Over Quantity
Try not to get too caught up on getting the perfect 50/50 time split between you and your ex. I have been quite lucky that able to have the kids as much as I do, a lot of this is down to my family being able to help with school runs and child care untill I’m home from work. With that said it may not be possible for you to do the same, that’s when it makes sense to work out a schedule that suits everyone and can be stuck too. You need to have the self-belief and confidence that you will keep a close bond with your kids regardless of the tough situation.
When we first split I would Facetime/call my kids the nights I did not have them, this lets me stay connected to kids even though it wasn’t “my night”. This way they knew I was still there for them and loved them as well as me getting to see them. The benefit of this was that it also didn’t disrupt their routine at their mum’s house. We would work out a time when was best for me to call beforehand, usually before they were going for a bath. And their mum calls them on the nights I have them.
3. Keep Reviewing “The Schedule”
It’s very important for kids to have a stable schedule, I have found that when you get your kids into a constant routine their behaviour tends to improve and their stress levels (as well as your own) go down. Though in life circumstances will change, I have changed job three times since splitting with the kid’s mum. This has meant different working locations affecting travel times, different hours, etc… this means you need to be prepared to renegotiate the schedule with your ex as and when these changes happen.
I would also recommend that once you have ironed out the details with the ex then you let the kids know what the new plan is, this way they feel involved, and if you have a calendar with the dates on or a fridge chart you can let them update this.
4. Dealing with Loneliness
For me, at first, the time apart from my kids was excruciatingly painful. Painful to the point where I got myself into a little funk when they weren’t there. Slowly I learned that Instead of ignoring the pain I had to give myself time to grieve this “loss”.
Once I came out of the “loss” stage I started to fill the nights without the kids by going to the gym, extra-long walks with the dogs (they didn’t know what hit them), getting the housework done, meal prepping for the week, and a bit of writing now and again (hence the blog). Doing most of these things on nights I didn’t have the kids meant I could free up time for nights when the kids stay.
5. Control Your Temper
When your Ex does something to annoy you over the kids try not to start texting them straight away. I must admit I have done this a few times myself and it never really helps. You feel better for about a second after its sent then realise you have gone over the top. What I started doing was keeping a list of issues on my phone then next time I spoke to her I would bring up what’s on the list. A lot of the time I would realise that a lot of the list had already worked itself out.
Also losing it in front of the kids or bad mouthing their mother in front of them is not going to help, you’re just going to upset them and feel like an idiot. Insulting and criticising your ex won’t get her to change her behaviour anyway. It’s hard but it’s best just to try and let anything said roll off your back and deal with it when you’re in a better state of mind.
6. Don’t Communicate with your Ex through your kids
Don’t use the kids as go-betweens. Not only are they likely to get the message wrong they are also going to pick up any negative feelings that the message may contain. If you are on the other end of this and the kids give you a message from your ex I’d recommend contacting her directly to address the issue and try to remain calm and positive.
7. Keep exchanges short and sweet
This one sounds a little harsh but wherever or whenever you drop the kids off try and keep this short and sweet. Try not to let on you’re upset that they’re leaving, don’t drag it out and put as much of a positive spin as you can on the handover. Say your goodbyes with a big smile, this way the kids won’t feel guilty about leaving you by yourself.
8. Share photos and accomplishments
When your kids get their exam results, doing something special at school or on a day out and their mum is missing it, take a picture and text or email it to her. Let the kids know you’re sending the picture so they know you are including their mum in events even when she’s not there. Ask her to do the same for you, but be prepared for her to not do it, or say she will but then still doesn’t. At the end of the day, it’s all about the kids.
9. Stay Positive
This one’s tough, but even after being through an ugly split, your relationship with your ex may improve. Though the situation is tough on everyone at first be positive that it will get better. It’s better for the kids to have two happy parents living separately than two parents at each other’s throat in the same house. I found that once a schedule was set and after a little time everything settles down and everyone became a lot happier day to day.
10. Enjoy your time off
One of the perks of being a single dad is that you will have time just for you. You should take full advantage of the days your kids are with their mum. Use this time to socialise, hit the gym, go for walks, watch movies (that aren’t kid’s films😊), have a few beers or just have a long sleep in. Get your house in order, recharge your batteries so when the kids come back they will get the best version of you.
That’s what I learned my first year of co-parenting, as always if you have any comments or you have any advice yourself please leave a comment below, it would be great to hear from you.
Thanks David 😉