Adjusting to life as a co-parent

Mum and son embracing
Originally published on 15th June 2020 at 5:41 PM

Unlike other breakups, if you have children and decide to co-parent after the end of a relationship, it’s not possible to have a clean break. This doesn’t mean that things have to get messy, but it does mean you have to adjust your expectations. Luckily, the Frolo community is full of single parents who have been there, done that, and are happy to share their wisdom with other single parents. Here’s some of their best advice on adjusting to your new role as a co-parent.

Be patient 

As parents, we all try our best to be patient with our kids. It can be much harder to be patient with our co-parent, and harder still to be patient with ourselves. Especially when emotions are running high. 

If you’re new to co-parenting, then chances are your family has just gone through a period of emotional upheaval - so cut yourself some slack. Remember this is all new to your ex too, forget perfection, celebrate small victories, and congratulate yourself when things are just fine. 

Lay a solid foundation

Establishing a routine, designating a channel of communication for co-parenting conversations, and setting clear boundaries from the start are all great ways to set your co-parenting relationship up for success. Better still, if you can agree on a consistent approach to discipline and lay a few ground rules around how you will tackle big decisions, then you won’t have to have those conversations when there is more pressure on the situation. 

Of course, this relies on a cooperative relationship between you and your ex and, sadly, for some people and for a variety of reasons, that just isn’t possible. 

Co-parenting with minimal contact

If it’s not possible for you to establish a productive co-parenting relationship with your ex, but you have agreed on shared custody, there are steps you can take to minimise contact and avoid conflict as much as possible.

Do handovers at school or via a trusted third-party, such as a grandparent. If one parent drops off at school or a grandparent’s house, the other parent can safely collect them from there with no interaction between parents. 

Use technology to communicate. There are lots of options out there for making arrangements with your co-parent without the need to talk in person, over the phone, or via text - from tried and tested methods such as email or a shared calendar, to specialist co-parenting apps. 

How to adjust to parenting on your own

Parenting can be exhausting when you’re in a couple - let alone when you’re running the show on your own. An effective co-parenting relationship can definitely take some of the pressure off, but the fact remains that, when you have your kids with you, you’re parenting solo. If you have people that you can ask for help, don’t hesitate to reach out to them. If you don’t, it’s a good idea to proactively build a support network of people who can offer advice and practical support when necessary (more on this later). 

It will seem daunting and very tiring at first - especially on the days that your kids decide to test boundaries - but lots of single parents grow to enjoy the independence and self-confidence that parenting on their own brings. 

A top tip from the Frolo Community is to try and stick to a firm bedtime. Easier said than done, but (theoretically at least) this will give you some time in the evening to relax, gather your thoughts, or just get an early night.

How to adjust to spending time without your kids

This is often the most difficult adjustment to make when going through separation and divorce - and it’s certainly the most noticeable. It’s completely normal to feel slightly adrift when your children are staying with your co-parent, especially at first. The house will be quieter than usual and, for many, this serves as a reminder of how much things have changed. You didn’t plan to for your children to split their time between two homes and it’s completely natural to miss them when they’re not around.

However, there are some things you can do to make it a bit easier. Firstly, remember how valuable it is for your children to be spending time with their other parent. Happy, secure children who have strong relationships with both parents is the ideal outcome when co-parenting and what you’re ultimately working towards. It also helps to remember that your ex is also spending more time away from your children and misses them in the same way that you do.

It sounds trite, but keeping yourself busy while your children are with their co-parent is a good way to stave off feelings of loneliness. See friends, start a new hobby (or resume an old one), do the things it’s hard to get done when your kids are around, and spend some time relaxing and recharging your batteries for when your kids return.

Find a support network

It’s important to reach out to friends and family, and discuss your feelings openly with people you trust when you’re going through a separation and transitioning to a co-parenting arrangement. However, even with the support of family and friends, many single parents feel isolated and alone - particularly in the early days after separation - if they don’t have any other single parents in their social circle. When surveyed, 96% of the Frolo community reported feeling lonely after becoming a single parent. However, 89% reported that belonging to a community of people who understood their situation eased these feelings significantly. That’s where Frolo comes into its own.

Frolo is an empowering app and community designed to help single parents connect and form meaningful friendships. The app is a positive and supportive space where frolos can chat, ask for advice, share experiences, and arrange meetups. There are now nearly 6,000 app users, forming a network of peer support that can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by any single parent. There are virtual social events happening on the app every day during lockdown and more than 40 topic-based group chats - covering everything from parenting hacks to hiking - to help frolos find their tribe. You can find out more about Frolo and download the app here.

About the author

Alice is Community Manager at Frolo. Frolo is the online community for single parents.

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