The perks and struggles of co-parenting

Raising a child is ideally a responsibility that should be shared by both parents, so they can both guide the child at every step of their growth. However, when both parents disagree on certain issues and decide that they cannot stay under one roof, they have no choice but to share their parenting roles.

Co-parenting isn’t always a walk in the park, especially when you are used to parenting with the help of the other parent. Finding the balance can be really tough, especially when two parties have different views or ways when it comes to raising a child.

Rukia Uwicyeza, for example, has an eight-year-old son with her ex-partner. It was agreed after they ended their relationship that splitting the time with their son 50/50 was the best option for them.

“Co-parenting is a bit tough. Putting your own wants and needs side-by-side with the child’s and the other parent’s too, although creates a mutual willingness to do the right thing, can be mind boggling.

“I want to be involved in every stage of growth and development and there some steps that I want him to learn my way. I know my son needs a father figure but I am not comfortable with some of the ways he handles my son, I think he is a bit tough on him,” she shares.

If divorced or separated because of different ideologies than you, this could be a serious struggle. You might worry about having to “reteach” your child whatever they picked up from their bad influences.”

While every parent wants perfect children, disciplined, loving and high achieving at the path they choose in life, most parents agree on one thing though, that discipline is the ultimate test of parenting.

“It takes a lot of discipline and selflessness to children in different spaces,” shares a single father who requested anonymity, “As it often brings about serious disagreement between parents on how the child should be brought up or the way the child should be disciplined.”

Parents should quit making scenes whenever one disagrees with the other’s parenting style. Sometimes it cannot be avoided but it is best that partners do not rebuke each other in the presence of the child because this has a negative impact on the child.

Luckily for Uwicyeza, however, all is not bad with co-parenting, because not only does she treasure having both her own space, she believes one-on-one time with her son is better now for both parents and is happy that their relationship with their son is better.

“I organise my time to give as much to him as I can during the period he stays with me, and then devote myself to other activities when he is at his father’s house for the weekend. With co-parenting, having that ‘me time’ is extremely valuable, not only to recharge and just take a break, but it enables me to work on myself in all aspects of my life,” she says.

Unfortunately, while co-parenting maybe work for some, it has not always been the case as the number of women raising children alone continues to rise.

Diana Muhoza (not real name) is raising her two children singlehandedly. Her ex-partner, abandoned her two years ago. Dealing with a deadbeat father, she says is not easy and even though the law has forced their father to contribute financially, being emotionally detached to his children has turned into a nightmare.

“His financial assistance is not enough for us but luckily I have a job and my children don’t lack a thing. What hurts most is that he never thinks of spending time with the children or checking up on them, yet child’s best interests are of paramount significance in any matter concerning the child. It’s hard giving all the emotional support by myself,” she says.

Her parents, siblings and nanny have become her biggest support system, who she says are her children’s other parents.

Having given birth at a young age, I did not know most of the parenting tips and I often broke down into tears when overwhelmed. I’ve learned to accept that I need help, and thankfully they have been supportive, often relieving me of stress and allowing me time for myself, she says.

Tips for co-parenting

While many couples are agreeing to split care of their children without any legal intervention, Uwicyeza says it also means that each parent will deal with certain situations differently. She advises parents to have common ground rules and values that are in the interest of their kids.

“You should not expect one parent to do everything exactly the same way you do it. Even if you were still married you’d have different parenting styles and that’s natural. Kids’ growth thrives on the differences as long as they have the emotional support that they need,” she says.

Jackline Iringaniza, a counsellor in Kigali, says that co-parenting, could be tremendously valuable and all it takes is the right communication skills by both parents.

She adds that despite parents being from separate homes, a child will benefit the most from two parents who love them and work together to co-parent with less bitterness toward each other.

“A good co-parenting relationship requires utilising all of your best communication skills. When both of you get conflicting ideas, always remember that your child or children love the other person and that it is important to them that they have both of you in their lives. Your children will appreciate your effort to surround him or her with love and support through a strong and co-operative co-parenting partnership,” she says.

She further suggests that a common ground will further give the children enough room to come to terms with the separation and divorce, which will in the long run have a positive impact on their lives.

“Parents should know that as a matter of fact, children seem to adapt better to divorce or separation when both spouses keep loving close relationships with their children. Keeping harmony enables the parents have time to themselves as they aren’t feeling tired or resentful of their own time being eaten into by children’s needs,” she says.


YOUR VOICE

Agree on boundaries and behavioural guidelines for raising your children so that there’s consistency in their lives, regardless of which parent they’re with at any given time.  Children in homes with a unified parenting approach have a better well-being than children with conflicting.

Joseph Kanamugire, parent

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Every parent has valuable strengths. They should recognise the different traits with the other parent and reinforce this awareness with their children. Speaking positively about the other parent teaches children that despite the differences, they have peaceful lives and they will not feel the separation.

Irene Mutesi, mother

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Communication about co-parenting is extremely vital for your child’s healthy development. Speak up if the other parent’s parenting style is troubling you. If you don’t have a good personal relationship with your ex, make it a practical business arrangement and get other family members involved.

Cynthia Mukansuro, businesswoman

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Avoid getting into big parenting debates over every decision. As long as you can trust that both of you are committed to raising your kids in a healthy and supportive environment, you should not try to interfere in each other’s day-to-day parenting decisions. For the big decisions, like your child’s schooling, medical care, and religious upbringing, is it important to agree on the same thing.

Stuart Uwizeye, parent

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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