The “traditional” family unit is changing and there are now so many different kinds of families working together to care for their children in a positive way.
Co-parenting is the reality for so many families in Ireland. The “traditional” family unit is changing and there are now so many different kinds of families working together to care for their children in a positive way.
is when two parents share the parenting responsibilities despite the fact that they may no longer be romantically involved. There are a number of reasons why this may end up being the reality. In some cases, parents may have never been romantically involved. Surprise pregnancies are extremely common and in many cases, those two people may have had no intention of building a life together.
In other cases, relationships can, unfortunately, fall apart. This is usually something that neither party ever imagined or wanted but it is a very real experience for so many parents
. A separation is vastly more complicated when children are involved. The emotional well-being of the children takes precedence over the hurt and anxiety that will be washing over the couple involved.
I am a child of a “broken” family. As the eldest of five children (all of which came from my parents’ marriage) I’ve learnt a thing or two over the years about what did and did not work well for us as children throughout the experience. When my parents split up for good I was twelve years old and my siblings were 2, 4, 7 and 10.
On a reassuring note, we are all very happy and healthy (now) adults who received the same care and love that any child from an “unbroken” family would have received.
Here are some tips for co-parenting in the healthiest possible way – directly from the child (me) on the receiving end of that parenting set-up.
1. Try to keep matters of finance and business for when the children are not around. Little ears hear everything and it can really add to the sense of worry and anxiety for the children.
2. Try not to bad-mouth each other as it may lead to your children resenting you both. You can fall out of love but still respect each other as human beings – even if the reality is a lot more difficult than it sounds. Don’t encourage negative talk about your ex (even if it is music to your ears).
3. Encourage an open forum of communication for the kids. This will be a massive life change for children who once had two parents under the one roof. For a child who has always been co-parented, it may be a realization when they get older and notice how other families work. Encourage your child to talk about their feelings and speak up if they are struggling with any element of the way things work.
4. Inform your child’s teacher and the school of any major changes as it may help them to recognise and understand certain behaviours or struggles for your child. It may also help them use more sensitive language and examples during lessons.
5. Try to do what works best for your particular situation. People may tell you that you should do separate birthday parties and Christmas presents but the most important thing to consider is that the arrangement you come to works best for you and your children. You are the ones living the reality so do what works for you guys.
6. If you move on and meet a new partner try to hold off on any introductions until you are confident that the relationship is “going somewhere”. Another element of change may lead to resentment and resistance from the kids. That first meeting can work well if it is casual and in a neutral space rather than the family home where children may feel insecure and threatened by more change.
7. Look after your own emotions. Consider counselling, self-help books and as much self-care as possible. When you are feeling your best the children will get the best of you. Don’t suffer in silence. You are not alone.
8. Boundaries, consistency and routine are so important for all children. Try to implement a solid routine and set-up from the very beginning. It will add to your children’s sense of security as well as making life logistically easier for all involved.
Tracey is a happy mammy to four-year-old Billy. She is a breastfeeder, gentle parent and has recently lost five stone so healthy family eating is her passion! You can find her at www.loveofliving.ie.