BY Wendi Schuller
There are ways to have a workable relationship with your ex and to make co-parenting go smoother. Remember, the kids are not a prize and the situation is not winner take all. Thirty-year-old Charlie is a plumber in his family’s business and has a lot of tips for other single fathers:
- Show that you are dependable. That eases the mind of the other parent who then may be willing to compromise. Charlie is punctual, and is reliable getting his son to school and activities. The mother knows her son is in good hands when he is with dad.
- Be low-key in negotiations and leave your ego at home. Charlie claimed by being “submissive” during negotiations, he was able to get his son five nights a week for the last three years. Being aggressive is off-putting to the co-parent, who may balk at demands. By showing he was willing to talk things through and to listen gave him more time with his son. They were going to court to have a judge make a ruling for a point that could not be agreed upon. Standing on the court steps, this former couple looked at each other and said it was “nuts.” They went inside, cancelled the court hearing and talked things over at a nearby coffee house. Charlie advises to give a little more in negotiations so that they do not hit a road block.
- Be willing to try something on a trial basis. The other parent may go along with your wishes if they do not feel locked into a new plan. The mother now wants their son 50/50, and Charlie acquiesced. He re-framed losing a portion of the shared time by realizing he will get the boy on some weekends. Instead of being the parent who mainly had the tasks of getting the child to school and supervising homework, he will get some playtime. He said that his ex will soon realize all the work that he did during the school week. While they are trying out 50/50 shared care, Charlie is going to take classes to get certified to also do commercial plumbing. He is proactively filling a gap of time when his son will be with his mother, plus he is furthering his career.
- Keep on task and do not let things get out of control. Charlie learned that not letting laundry pile up and getting the dishes done soon made his domestic life less hectic. He engages his son in doing chores, which gives the lad a sense of responsibility
- Take responsibility for your problems and get any needed help. Charlie started drinking too much when his son was a baby. He stopped for a period and thought that this problem was behind him. When he started up again, his partner became alarmed. She feared for the safety of their son and filed a lawsuit to prevent Charlie from driving with their boy in his car. Charlie went into rehab and she dropped the law suit. He has been sober for four years now and tells other fellows to man-up, and not to blame others for their mistakes or issue. It is a sign of strength to seek assistance for a problem.
Charlie said the important action is to keep communication lines open between the two parents. Remember that the ultimate goal is the well-being of the child.