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Co-Parenting

Let me get this straight, now that I'm single I still have to parent with my ex in order to raise my kids?

parents walking baby

If there’s one thing I do well as a single dad it’s co-parenting. But then if I’m co-parenting am I still a single dad? Well yes, not in the way some single dads have kids full time, but part time single dadding is still single dadding. Co-parenting is when two or more parents work together to raise a child or children, despite not being in a romantic relationship or living in the same household. Co-parenting can take many different forms depending on the needs and circumstances of the parents and the child. This is probably the most common group that makes up single dads. Now every situation is unique. But here’s some guidelines for successful co-parenting.


Parent relationship

If you don’t get along with you ex, then fix this. It’s priority one. I don't care who slept with who, what she did to you, how much it hurt or what caused the break up. Put that all behind you. Be an adult. Don’t let pride get in the way of being a good single dad and a parent. You can’t co-parent if you can’t communicate effectively with the kids’ mum.


Regardless of how you feel about the kids’ mother, the children need her and they still have the right to love her. Don’t bad mouth her and don’t try to point score. If you try to poison the kids against their mum, they’ll lose respect and trust in you. Kids will learn a lot of their own behaviours by observing you.


father and baby

Calendar

Kids need routine to feel safe, secure and happy. Establish a timetable of when kids are with you and when they are with their mum. In my situation we started by rotating every 3 days, This was a good start so the children weren’t away from either of us for too long.


But it became unsustainable and confusing because they couldn’t get settled in one place before having to pack up and go to the other house. In the end it was the kids who asked to go week on, week off, which works well in our situation.


Use a calendar app to highlight when they are with who in different colours and have it repeat indefinitely so you can look ahead at any given time when you need to know specific dates for things. For example, you want to go see your favourite band in concert on say November 17th. A quick glance will tell you who has the kids on that day in case you need to make arrangements.


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Be flexible

Agree that the calendar is flexible. If you are willing to take the kids on a day when you wouldn’t normally so your ex can go to a party, then she is likely to do the same for you. Even if it’s a couple of weeks holiday. It all works out in the long term. If you both have dates that clash, either find friends or relatives to help out or wait for it….compromise (yes, I know, crazy huh?).

Living arrangements:

It’s likely that the way you run a dad house is different from how a mum house is run. But you and their mother need to be as consistent as possible on things like:

  • Bedtimes

  • Chores and duties

  • Pocket money

  • What movies, tv shows and video games they are allowed to watch/play

  • Balanced diet

This is where a lot of the ‘point scoring’ I mentioned earlier can occur. If at mum’s house they go to bed at 7pm and then you let them stay up til 9pm it’s going to cause confusion for the kids and they’ll argue with mum that they’re allowed to stay up later at your place.


You might even do this on purpose to try and make the kids ‘love you more’. It’ll cause conflict and will have a knock on effect in other areas. Pretty soon the well structured co-parenting agreement you have starts to break down and it’s the kids who pay the price.


If I’m in two minds about whether my child should watch a particular movie, I shoot their mum a text and get her thoughts. If they're sick and got a temperature, I call her first to discuss what to do and who might have to stay home from work to care for them etc.


dad and kids kayaking

What About Your Needs?

Yes, you need to take care of you. How can you be a good single dad if you’re unfit, depressed, time poor, unhealthy and unmotivated? You need to have things in your life that fill your bucket and contribute to your own wellbeing. But unfortunately single dadding requires some compromise.

Meeting mates down the pub twice a week or hitting a class you love at the gym every Thursday is going to be hard when you have kids to look after. It ends up being every other week until your kids are old enough to be left at home for a couple of hours or some kind of work around.


Find stuff you can do at home when you have your kids. There are equally rewarding things to do with your children and you shouldn’t waste it. Time with your kids goes by before you know it. I miss my kids being young, I really do, and if I’m brutally honest I’d give anything to go back to a time where I could take them to the park and push them on the swings again.


family at Christmas

Be a Family When it Matters

A lot of my friends find my co-parenting situation strange. We still come together as a family when it matters. The 5 of us go out to dinner on birthdays, Christmas, Easter and important school events and other celebrations. We also get together with my ex’s new partner and his kids.


It works because the adults see the benefits to the children. The positive message it sends and the comfort it brings is great for their wellbeing all round. This might be tricky for your dynamic, but if you can, make it work. I’ll keep saying it….It’s about the kids.


Open communication, trust, routine. Be the best dad and be the best co-parent you can be.


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