By Soni Kanake
For co-parenting to be effective, the absent parent has got to be willing to help in raising the child. The following tips can come in handy:
1. Don't isolate
Dr Gidraph Wairire a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Social Work at the University of Nairobi, says the importance of involving both parents in a child’s life cannot be overemphasised. In instances where the couple is separated but the dad is willing to be a part of his child’s life, he should not be denied that opportunity. The child needs to know his heritage and the mother should endeavour to bridge that gap.
2. Deal with baggage
“Each partner must first deal with their personal issues,” says Prof Catherine Gachutha, a counseling psychologist and Director, Kenya Institute of Business and Counselling Studies.
She emphasises on the need for both parents to rise above their differences for the sake of their children and to separate their issues from the child’s needs.
3. Block out the bad
Co-parenting can be influenced by other competing interests like relatives. The parents should sieve any negative energy coming from other sources that may affect co-parenting.
4. Help the child
It is important to understand that the child is also grieving the loss of one parent.
“Children need to be helped to appreciate their unique situation to accept Mummy and Daddy separated,” says Prof Gachutha.
Since they are minors, they can be helped to be as objective as possible in accepting the step-parent. Since they are still under authority, it shouldn’t be hard for them to as long as it is working and they are not being mistreated.
5. No backbiting
Prof Gachutha further stresses on the fact that some parents are known to go to the extent of poisoning their children against the step-mum.
“Unfortunately, this can destroy the children who are still at a formative stage. Such a bitter parent should work on themselves and realise that when both biological parents are civil, the child benefits from the co-parenting. The biological mum should only step in if her child is being mistreated,” she says.
6. Make everything clear
Dr Wairie says that in instances where a man is co-parenting with his former spouse, he should assure his current spouse to ensure there are no grey areas. In such instances where a man is married with kids from a previous relationship, and opts to leave his current wife out of his co-parenting arrangement, Prof Gachutha says it can cause a rift in the marriage as his current wife feels left out.
To pre-empt unnecessary drama, Prof Gachutha advises men to involve their wives. She sees this exception as a lack of foresight in the man.
Exempting her in co-parenting leaves her wondering why the secrecy and worst of all, it makes the kids suspicious of their step-mum. This makes it hard for them to create a relationship with her,” she says.
7. Maximise on time
“Sadly, the child lacks consistent attention and presence from both parents, who are not able to offer him 100pc of themselves,” says Dr Wairire.
Since in most cases the minor is usually left in the mother’s care, they soon realise that their father is an absent dad. Dr Wairire says the downside is that the child might undermine their father’s authority who is not there to consistently reinforce it. In such scenarios, it’s almost impossible for the father to discipline the child who doesn’t regard him as an authority and could acquire wayward tendencies.
However, the dad can become influential in his child’s life by getting fully involved in their lives. “Maximize on the little time by talking to the child on a one-on-one without intermediaries, take time to play, counsel and advise your children,” advises Dr Wairire.
8. Don't fake it
Dr Wairire says children are wise and can tell the difference between a father who is merely fulfilling his parental duties and one who genuinely loves them. When the child feels cared for, they will be loyal and disciplining them even when absent is achievable since he is able to honour his dad.
It is important for the dad to go the extra mile to maintain that bond. A non-contractual relationship, where the dad is missing in action if prolonged, causes the child to have loyalty issues.
9. Better there than absent
Prof Gachutha emphasises, however, that a child who is co parented grows up feeling important and loved, which raises their self-esteem as opposed to the one who was neglected as they grow up feeling rejected.
“They grow up knowing that despite their parents’ marriage not working, they were mature enough not to drag them into their mess,” she says.
10. Co-parenting can work
Prof Gachutha says that co-parenting is functional if both parents rise above their challenges and realise that the child is the most important part of this equation.
“Co-parenting benefits the child in various ways,” says Dr Warire:
• Heritage: The child gets to know where he came from and who his ancestors are.
• Self-esteem: He feels good about himself, since his dad didn’t abandon him.
• Identity: It boosts his self-ego. A man secrets longs to be identified with his father.
• Self-assurance: He is assured there is someone he can look up to, a mentor, leader.
“Co-parenting should be done with caution and the dad should not be coerced otherwise it becomes counterproductive,” advises Dr Wairire.