Setting Up Ground Rules is Vital to Successful Co-Parenting
Author and single Mom Debra Gano knows all too well about the importance of setting up a successful co-parenting relationship with her ex, not only for her own sanity, but for the sake of her daughter.
“When I got pregnant, my ex and I tried to make it work and stayed together until Ella was a year and a half,” says Gano, author of Beauty’s Secret a book that empowers tween girls
, who admits that like most women she wanted to give her child a chance at a “two-parent” household. “But in my heart I felt like I couldn’t move forward with marriage, and in order for me to be truly authentic to myself, I knew it was in my best interest to be on my own.”
Since entering into her co-parenting partnership with her ex Gano has had to make some major adjustments in all aspects of her life.
“Being a single Mom, is definitely a juggling act; you need to be the money earner, home maintenance person and caretaker,” she says. “But the biggest challenge for me was learning how to manage my relationship with my ex and co-parent which required a lot of surrendering of my expectations and setting up clear ground rules.”
Gano and her ex have different parenting styles; he’s “Disneyland Dad,” all fun and games, no strict bedtime and lots of television viewing. Gano, who often feels like Ella comes back from her ex’s house a bit over stimulated tries to make sure when Ella’s with her that she’s providing a quiet, soothing environment. Creating consistency between her and her ex’s households has probably been the biggest challenge that Gano has faced.
“Now that Ella’s a bit older she knows there are certain things she must do at her Dad’s,” says Gano. “Maybe I’m a little annoying but I call her an hour before bedtime and remind her to start getting ready for bed; to put on her pajamas and brush her teeth. I’ll ask her what she ate for dinner and tell her to call me before she goes to bed.”
Here are some of Gano’s tips for single Moms trying to craft consistent and balanced ground rules between their house and their ex’s.
Learn to let go of expectations.
In the past, when her daughter would sleep at her Dad’s house and go to school the next day, wearing the same outfit as the previous day it annoyed Gano on many levels. To counteract those type of situations, Gano has taken on some extra responsibilities; she goes over to her ex’s house once a week to pick up her daughter’s dirty laundry, clean her room and to restock her daughter’s toiletries. Gano does all of this not to make life easier for her ex, but to make sure her daughter has all the comforts of home even at her Dad’s house.
Kids are extremely affected by their parents’ behavior, so try to maintain a friendly relationship with your ex.
When you drop off your child, go inside and say hi to your ex. Accept your ex for who he is rather than try to change him. Focus on his good points and work around the other stuff. Even if it means, you have to do some extra legwork. Give up being right and learn to compromise. It’s really what’s best for your child.
“Initially, our different parenting styles caused us to argue constantly over the phone and in person and seeing us argue would upset my daughter a great deal,” says Gano. “I’ve since learned to let a lot of stuff go. I make it my priority to get along with her Dad which I know makes her happy.”
If your ex has a girlfriend, make it your business to get acquainted with her.
Don’t let yourself feel threatened by this person. Learn to take your ego out of the equation. Of course being jealous is a normal feeling but, at the same time, don’t let it get the best of you. Remember, you can’t always control how you feel but you can control how you react to a situation.
Kids can feel if you haven’t forgiven the other parent. It’s a step that needs to be taken in order to successfully co-parent and it is truly liberating.
“Ultimately, when you think about of what’s best for your child, it’s really in her best interest that both her Mother and Father are happy because a happy person is a good parent,” says Gano.
Learn more about Debra Gano and her book series, check out http://www.heartlightgirls.com/.
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