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The Single Dad Survival Guide: How to Be Together When You're Not Together
Let's get something clear out the gate. Your child is the most important person to consider in your relationship with your partner. I know that may sound obvious but it is the basis for what I have to share. If you can understand what I mean by this, you, your child, and your child's mom will have a great relationship.
So let's start with some basic rules:
- You and your child's mother are not together. By together I mean you are not involved romantically and have split up amicably. (Or have at least agreed that there is no romantic relationship, break-ups can be messy!) The first thing you want to establish are BOUNDARIES. This needs to start with YOU. For whatever reason the two of you aren't together it is important to have a line drawn that you do not cross. Now if you split up and still have feelings for each other, that is a whole other story. Every child wants their parents together but if you're only together for the sake of the child you will have problems. Children can sense that. Don't stay for the child, stay for each other. Understand that the things you do are for your child and that includes your own happiness.
- Be honest. Again, this may seem obvious but honesty is and always will be the best policy. I'm not just talking being honest with your partner but being honest with YOURSELF. If you are harboring feelings towards your ex it will hinder your relationship. In doing so you will hinder the relationship you're building with your child. The same goes the other way, if your ex is harboring feelings for you, then you need to be honest and (back to the first point) set some boundaries. When you are honest with yourself it allows you to communicate properly. You become more clear in what it is you'd like to convey and it tends to get your message through a lot better.
- Communication is key. Now that you're being totally honest don't forget to talk! You don't have to get super personal with your parenting partner but you do have to keep the lines of communication wide open. When the subject is your child there should be no problem solving problems together if and only if you've been able to talk to each other without any of your emotions getting in the way. I'm not saying you have to be cold to each other, I'm only saying that as parents you have objectives and goals for your child. It could be something as simple as reminding your ex to pack your child's homework folder when she drops him back off on Sunday. Keep your conversations on topic. At first. If you two have a good relationship then you're more than welcome to talk about whatever you like, but if things are rocky and not so great then make sure to convey what's important, your child.
By doing these few things you'll see a huge improvement in your dynamic with your partner. What's more is your child will see it too. This is the most important thing! When your child can see that mom and dad are not arguing and that they are working as a team, your child will come to understand that no matter which parent they are with, there is love there.
Now, if you and your co-parent aren't on the best of terms then I offer this to you: FAKE IT. Yes, FAKE IT. Having arguments in front of your child is 100% not okay! Showing any type of anger or resentment towards your co-parent is not good for your child. Remember, they reflect what you project! What you DO NOT want is your child trying to make sense of why you and mom are yelling at each other. When your child is around I recommend you fake it till you make it. Your kid must be shown that mommy and daddy are a unit that is on one accord. This can be difficult if there are feeling involved but not impossible to overcome if you are honest with your partner and communicate effectively. Remain consistent and understand that everything is temporary. Children don't want to feel like they are the reason you two don't get along. As a man it is your duty to protect your child, even if that means protecting them from your acidic relationship. Show them love. Be the man you want them to be or the man you wan them to bring home.