Making co-parenting work
We all want to be the best parents we can be for our children. While experts recommend a happy, stable home for children, every day, the number of parents involved in a messy divorce or separation keep rising.
Sometimes called joint parenting or separate parenting, co-parenting is when two parents of a child are not romantically involved, but still assume joint responsibility for the upbringing of that child.
This tough arrangement can either be a walk in the park or a constant headache if both parents fail to agree.
In a Webinar dubbed, “Custody Access and Co-parenting: How To make It Work,” advocate Ann Mbugua shared tips on how to make such arrangement work.
She says that couples need to have a structure on how to take care of their children.
This is because uprooting children from their home have psychological impact on the children.
Family separation isn’t easy for parents or children. Everyone in the family feels a tremendous sense of loss and anxiety at the thought that the family as they know it, would no longer be the same.
Agree on best arrangement
“They are used to a particular locality and way of life and doing things. Allowing children to continue spending time with both parents through co-parenting can make them feel less like they have lost a parent, or that they have to take sides.
It also gives them much needed time to continue building relationships with both their parents individually,” shares Ann who is advocate Musyimi and Co Advocates.
However, before any action is taken, the two parents should agree amongst themselves and settle on the best arrangement for the children.
“Should you find a difficult partner, then mediation can be used where a third party such as a counsellor or a parent talk to the stubborn one.
If the two don’t work, then the children’s court is the third place where such disputes can be settled where an arrangement to stabilise the children can be made,” Ann advises.
She emphasised on the need for both parents to allow each other have access to the children.
Children are innocent
“The big question that children would be having is, “Where is daddy or mummy?” “How it is that daddy doesn’t reach out to us?
Is it that daddy doesn’t love us anymore?” Some people think that by not following up on the children to avoid conflict with the mother or father is the best decision, not knowing that it affects the psychological well-being of the children,” she explains. This creates a sense of helplessness and insecurity.
She adds that while parents are not related to each other by blood, their children are and their relationship is distinct from the husband, wife or partner kind.
While the parents might have conflict with each and not be in speaking terms, they should know that children are innocent.
The two ought to put their differences aside and work out the best arrangement for their children.
Conflicts, she says, arise because of lack of structures. “There should be a structure and both parents should outline a workable way of taking care of their children.
We are encouraging people to enter into parental responsibility agreements, which is a document that is provided for in the Children’s Act. It defines the responsibilities of both parents.
What rules should operate, how far should access go, what one should tell children and what you should not, to avoid one parent badmouthing the other.
Consider routine and discipline to be maintained for instance, what time should they sleep, or eat, what should they watch on TV, among others,” she says.
Bearing the pain
According to Ann, the first solution to a conflict free co-parenting is to have the philosophy that children are a blessing.
“If we approach co-parenting with the burden mentality like the children need money and to be taken care of, then it would be difficult.
If I know that I’m the one who chose the father or mother of the children, then I should take the responsibility for that choice. I shouldn’t pass it to my children.
There are pains parents need to bear to give space to their children because they are the ones who made the choice to have them,” Ann adds.
Additionally, parenting is a lifetime project. And if one is in a lifetime project, they ought to do their best to minimise conflict.
“Think about their graduation, their marriage all the life processes and remove any conflict areas when it comes to co-parenting,” she advices
Another factor that makes co-parenting work is when parents know what is the best interest of their children and keep it at heart even when making arrangements.
“The sad thing is that children are most of the time never called for these meetings.
The question should always be what is good for the children not what is good for me or you,” Ann notes.
“You won’t have a chance of doing it again. So, your children are watching and listening. People should stop sowing bitter seeds in their children. Children are only young once.
The roles change in future and the dependent become independent and by the time the parents are getting to 70 years, the children care for their parents financially,” she says in conclusion.