Ruthie Hawkins, BlackDoctor.org Contributor
Though it’s easy to get caught up in the feelings surrounding a broken relationship, when a child is involved, it’s important to put those emotions aside and focus on the best interest of the child. Just recently, I had a conversation with a close friend, who is experiencing what many single parents endure when navigating through the wonderful world of co-parenting:
- Lack of consistency
- Power struggle
- Respecting boundaries
- Conditional support
In an ideal world, co-parenting would look a little something like this:
- “Equal partnership in raising your child, with both parents providing financial help (no questions asked) – whether married or not.” But, that’s not always the case.
Sometimes, you’ll have to co-parent with someone who claims you are using your child as a pawn – yet they don’t call, make plans to visit, or consistently support the child financially. Other times, you’ll deal with a parent who doesn’t want to respect boundaries. For example, they may say that the only way they can come see the child is if you put them up – despite the mixed messages you’ve expressed it will send to your child. More times than others, getting any type of aid – something as simple as a pair of sneakers – will be like pulling out your wisdom teeth – a MF pain.
So, how does one co-parent like a grownup, in spite of the constant drama?
Keep the peace no matter what: I’m not going to lie; over-the-years, I have really struggled with this point. When someone is intentionally trying to push your buttons (looking for a reaction), you’ll likely feel the urge to pop back. Only, that quick-witted retort is hurting no one but yourself.
Avoid getting trapped in a fiery storm of tit-for-tat texts and redirect the conversation back to what’s important – the child’s emotional, physical and mental health, which begins with witnessing their parents respecting one another.
Keep records: Say a parent has made a commitment to pay support every two weeks, call at least once a week, pitch in on school supplies, or provide medical insurance. In the event they’re not holding up their end of the bargain, it’s easier to refer back to “receipts” than to play the “he said, she said” game.
Never depend solely on the other parent: Even if you have custody, child support, or a parenting agreement in place, it’s wise to ensure that you have the means (support system) to provide for the child. In the event the other party falls short on their obligations, you can rest assured your child will never go without.
Establish fair boundaries: It’s important to hammer out fair and, if possible, a liberal visitation schedule, so that the child can form a meaningful relationship with both parents.
While co-parenting becomes more difficult for parents residing in different states — should a parent express a desire to come visit the child, they should not be denied that right, unless a court has ordered otherwise.
Keep in mind that you are not required to ignore the boundaries you have set in place – including where the other parent will stay during visitation. If you and the child’s parent aren’t “together,” that message should be clearly communicated; as it sends mixed messages to the child/ren.
At the end of the day, if a parent truly wants to see their child, they will plan accordingly. Nothing, not even state lines, will keep them from continuing a relationship.
Never speak ill of the other parent: I cannot stress this enough. Young children are like sponges. They soak up whatever you dish out. Imagine how they’d feel if those they love most are criticizing each other? They are neither capable of understanding nor responding to such behavior.
In conclusion, if there is a history of domestic violence, substance abuse, threats or malicious claims made against you or the child, I encourage you to go through the court system sooner than later, to establish said boundaries and ensure a safe transition for everyone.