Being a parent comes with a multitude of challenges. There is no rule book, and often no right or wrong. It’s a process of learning and discovery. It can be tricky, emotional, rewarding and exhausting all at the same time.

Then there’s co-parenting. The by-product of a separation and a whole new way of bringing-up our children.

As mothers, we have a maternal built-in mechanism that makes it only natural for us to want to nurture our children. Co-parenting interrupts this instinctive cycle. And the end result is like trying to drive a car with only two wheels, or read a book with half the pages.

But, with time, practice and consideration from all involved there is no reason it can’t be a complete and fulfilling way to parent.  Here are my Beanstalk Single Mums five ground rules for co-parenting success.

  • Careful communication

Communication between you and your child’s father is absolutely key when it comes to co-parenting. My recommendation is to keep it to only what is necessary. The more you chat, the more room there is for disagreement. Emails and texts are a great form of communication for co-parents. Not only can you refer back to them, but you can check your message to make sure you have the tone right. Keep it short, friendly, clear and to the point. You could also check-out some co-parenting apps.

  • Picking your battles

I sometimes consider co-parenting to be a twisted joke that life plays on us. We are trying to provide the best life we can for the people most precious to us. Yet, we are teamed up with someone we have openly admitted we no longer like/respect/want anything to do with. It is a situation ripe for arguments. Don’t allow every little thing to be a gripe. Let the small things go, and only bring out the battleships when it really matters.

  • Show the love

Everything we do for our children, we do out of love. Yet, sometimes life gets so crazy-busy, that we may not show it as much as we should. The transition to co-parenting can be confusing for kids (and adults!). Make sure your child is 100% clear that your break-up is not their fault. That although mum and dad don’t love each other anymore, you both love them just as much. Think of little ways to show them you love them. If they know they have your unconditional love, they will cope better with the changes.

  • Practicing acceptance

To be the best co-parent you can be, you must accept the situation. You are not in a conventional parenting setting, and with this comes the loss of control. The sooner you accept this and work around it, the happier everyone will be. While the kids are with dad, it’s his rules, whether you like them or not. Accept, and perhaps try to compliment it. For example, my kids never stop at dad’s house, so I try to provide a relaxing, peaceful home for their return. I call this ‘complimentary co-parenting’.

  • Watch what you say

Do. Not. Disapprove. Of. Dad. I cannot stress this one enough. You will never do yourself any favours if you diss dad. Whether he deserves it or not is entirely irrelevant. He is their dad and you need to respect this. And yes, talking in a derogatory way about dad while they are within earshot counts too. It is upsetting, confusing and will end up making you the bad guy. Allow them time and space to see the situation for it is, by themselves. They are more observant than you may think.

  • Regular routines

We all know kids thrive on routine. In fact, most adults do too. They make us feel secure and in control. Don’t let routine and rules fall by the wayside when you co-parent. Kids are very resilient and able to work two sets of routines. One for each home. In fact, it is a great opportunity to create new routines. These can help lessen stress at changeover time; allow them to settle quickly into each home; and to feel safe in the knowledge that although life is different, it’s still the same in many ways.

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