Being a co-parent involves making all sorts of arrangements with the other partner. Sharing custody is one of them. In order to provide a stable and nurturing living environment for the child, you’ll have to decide when to switch home, coordinate your schedules and agree on a common routine. Here is some advice to help you make shared custody a success and respect everyone’s wishes and interests.
Plan shared parenting beforehand
When you choose to become a co-parent, it’s best to start discussing shared custody before the birth of your child. It’s too early to take many definitive decisions before the baby actually arrives, but you should at least ensure that you agree on certain topics. Whether the child will go to a public or private school, if (s)he will receive a religious education, as well as how to organize custody are some things to consider in advance to make sure that both co-parents are on the same page. Any financial issues linked to travelling expenses between the two households or to any extracurricular activities should also be discussed at this time.
Arrange shared custody according to your child’s age
If you decide to live apart from your co-parent, you’ll have to consider how to organize shared custody and when to switch homes. Your decision should take into consideration your child’s age. Things will work differently depending on whether your child is just a baby or more grown up.
Some paediatricians recommend that infants should stay with their Mum. Dad can have custody 2 or 3 times a week but it’s best that the baby spends every night with their mother until (s)he is one-year-old.
The number of nights spent with dad should be gradually increased until the child reaches the age of 6. It’s only then that you should consider initiating an equal custody arrangement between the two co-parents.
Days spent with Mum or Dad should be arranged in accordance with the child’s activities and personality, as well as the schedule of each parent.
One week with Mum and one week with Dad is a common choice. If this is the option you choose, it is advised to switch households in the middle of the week or on a Friday rather than on a Sunday evening. The latter is associated with the end of the weekend and returning to school the next day. Therefore, changing home at this moment can make things harder for the child.
You could also consider Monday and Tuesday with Dad, Wednesday and Thursday with Mum, and then one weekend with Dad, the other with Mum.
The co-parents should live nearby
Unless you decide to live under the same roof, for the child’s interest, both co-parents should live nearby, whether this is the same district, city or in towns just a few miles apart. The less time spent traveling, the more available for other activities. Additionally, too much traveling can be tiring for the child. So, if you get a great job offer but it’s far away from your co-parent’s home, consider it twice and think of your child first.
Decide on a common set of rules
If you opt for living in two different homes, you must ensure that your child maintains a stable and balanced routine with each parent. With your partner, decide on a common set of rules for both houses, for instance, a fixed schedule for dinner time and bedtime.
Other decisions, such as how long the child should spend in front of the television or any electronic devices (computer, tablet, telephone) should be discussed beforehand, as two different sets of rules can easily confuse the child. They need to grow up in a stable environment and follow the same routine with Mum as they do with Dad.
Always be respectful about your co-parent
Even if you usually have a good relationship with your co-parent, there may be times when you disagree with him or her or even feel a little annoyed. However, argument or not, never show anger in front of your child, as this could hurt him or her.
Communication is the key
Regularly talk to your co-parent about what’s going on with your child. This will make you feel equally involved in the child’s life. It also has the advantage of minimizing any frustration which may be caused by one of you missing out on an important event. Discuss what’s happening at school, during his/her activities or with his/her friends. Always share any information related to education, a change in schedule, a birthday invitation or any problems that may have occurred at home or elsewhere.
Listen to your child
Talking regularly to your co-parent is important, but so is listening intently to what your child has to say. (S)he also might have an opinion concerning custody. This could simply be a question of which toy to bring to dad’s apartment or, if (s)he is older, which custody arrangement they prefer. Pay attention to their feelings and needs and remember that you should always put your child’s interests first.