Only seeing your child part time, whether a biological child or a stepchild gained through a new marriage, can be a major challenge. A child’s schedule is already filled with school and extracurricular activities, and adding a visitation schedule into the mix is a challenge even for couples on the best terms. By remembering some key points about co-parenting, you can maintain your involvement and influence in your child’s life with minimal disruption caused by a break up of parents.
Part-Time Parenting Tip #1: Make Two Houses Two Homes
Currently there are no studies showing that a single, primary “home base” household is better for a child’s wellbeing. Often, a parent will make the argument for a single home during legal agreements in order to gain control or more time with their child, but this is unnecessary and both houses can be stable, loving environments. Part of successfully making your house a home is providing a safe and comfortable spaces, such as their own bed and room for belongings, a space for play or doing homework, and a regular spot at mealtimes.
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Part-Time Parenting Tip #2: Balance Weekday and Weekend Schedules
When co-parents live closer together, the balance of work week and weekend schedules is easier to achieve. When a parent is given primarily weekends, with one weeknight a week, this can lead to various problems. First, the dynamic of “fun parent” and “work parent” is established, with weekends dedicated to outings, activities, and meals out while the “work parent” is in charge of commutes, homework, and sticking to schedules. A blend of weekdays and weekends gives both parents a chance to balance the responsibilities of child rearing, and also get to share in fun activities.
Part-Time Parenting Tip #3: Agree on Boundaries
One of the easiest traps to fall into with co-parenting is the separation of punishments. If a child misbehaves, it is up to the parents to agree upon what punishment is fair and fits the misdemeanor. Having an imbalance of power this way won’t make your child love you anymore, but may lead to respecting you less. In the way that both households need to share chores and rewards, punishments and lesson learning needs to be shared too, in order for both parents to have a full and valuable role in their child’s life. Similarly, treats or indulgences should be balanced between the households, and if one parent allows for ice cream after dinner, the other should too, or at least agree upon when ice cream is allowed. Bribery by way of either lax rules or special treats does not a good child-parent bond make.
Part-Time Parenting Tip #4: Make a Positive Plan
Finding the way to interact positively with your ex-partner is vital to joint custody. Agreeing to speak to each other with courtesy, even outside the presence of your child, is key to finding a compromise in other matters. This may mean missing a sports event or school event in order to avoid animosity between parents, but a plan beforehand, agreed upon outside the heat of the moment, will make the misses bearable. Additionally, not allowing your child to speak poorly of your ex in your presence will set you up for a foundation of mutual respect throughout the mixed family.