SingleDad members share their fatherhood experiences and reach out to our community with tips, advice and lessons learned. This month’s topic is Co Parenting and how to effectively parent another person’s child using a little TLC. Read more…
Co Parenting Lessons from a SingleDad
This past month, my
girlfriend had back surgery. The results of this surgery required her to take
some extended time off from work as well as off her feet for recovery. This
"down time" meant that she was going to need my help with her day to day duties.
These duties didn’t seem too difficult for me at first; however, there was
small factor that I had underestimated. My girlfriend is a Single Mom and has a
10-year old daughter.
Parenting is hard enough,
but parenting someone else’s kid is even harder. Over the course of the next 6
weeks, I had learned a whole different world of Parenting. Don’t get me wrong,
my girlfriend’s daughter is a great kid and I love her. I learned some valuable lessons of love
, fatherhood and Co Parenting and I am hoping to help the next Single Dad who
partakes in the same journey of helping a loved one who has a child like I did.
The following paragraphs are descriptions of some of the examples of what
happened and how I learned to be a more effective Co Parent.
Let the games begin…
Parent or Play Date?
I am a father of three
children. My oldest is 19 and already in college. My son is 17 and is in high
school and my youngest is a very mature, 13 year old and attending Junior High.
The reason why I explain this is because my girlfriend’s daughter is 10 years
old. I say this with a smile because having a child around that is this age is
priceless in many ways. First, this is still an age where a child "likes" to be
around adults. There are no "smirks, squeals or eye rolls" yet. Life is still a
game and fun is always incorporated into just about everything. This age is
exactly what I like about being a kid. Having a child this age around my other
two is exactly what my family needed… that fresh air of laughter and
playfulness that only a child this age can bring.
Anyways, Alyssa became my
responsibility during my girlfriend’s custody schedule. This worked fine with
my schedule and there were no incidents to report. However, one of my first
lessons in Co Parenting was to "draw the line" between Parent and Play Date.
What I realized was that I was falling way too often into "Play Date" mode and
losing my ‘Parent" role when it came to keeping the household in order. I found
myself disregarding the responsibilities of dinner time, sleep time and overall
structure and this was not good. This is a trap. It is normal to want to be
"likeable" to another person’s child, but what I learned is that it is twice as
hard to get the respect back if you are not consistent with your words and
actions. It took a couple attempts, however, I was able to regain my "Parent"
respect back by reiterating my requests with the following formula:
Tone: I made
sure that the tone of my voice was not the "happy go lucky" RJ that was being
used often when we played together. This tone doesn’t have to be a "harsh
tone"… just different from the one being used in or daily interaction. I
realized that I was confusing Alyssa with the same "playful tone" and she
didn’t know any different. I can’t blame her because all she knew of me was
that I was someone that she associated with fun. When I realized that my tone
and my requests were confusing her; I made the change and saw immediate
So many times, I fall into this trap of not being present and hearing what’s
going on in the conversation. I call it, "Daddy Filter" because I find that I
mostly do this when my children are speaking to me and they "ramble" a lot of
content at me and I am trying to get to the "meat" of the conversation. My
video shows the example of how I agreed to Doughnuts on the way to school
without listening… My solution to better Co Parenting is to be a better
listener and get present to the conversation you are having with your child.
This was a no brainer. I found myself being inconsistent with my words and
actions. Going back to my previous story; it is normal to want to be liked. My
girlfriend’s daughter Alyssa is just like any other child her age. Kids love
attention and if you are going to give them attention make sure you are aware
of your words and actions. I now realized that I was allowing a 10 -year old to
"run the show" when it came to the important things around the house. In one
example, I like to cook healthy meals for my children, but saw a slow and
steady change in our healthy eating habits. I found us going out to eat, way
too often. Less vegetables and fruits in our diets and way too much fast food
had happened. Once I realized this trend, I made a correction, pointed it out
and made sure the family meals went back on a healthier course.
Parenting is a tough job.
Co Parenting a loved one’s child during a health crisis gave me an opportunity
to see how much more I needed to learn about myself as a Parent. I hope this
experience I shared and the tips I provided will help you in the future if you
answer the call to parent someone else’s child. Just remember; tone, listening, and consistency.
All you need is a little
Richard “RJ” Jaramillo, is the Founder of SingleDad.com,
a website and social media resource dedicated to single parenting and specifically for the newly divorced, re-married, widowed and single Father with children.
RJ is self employed, entrepreneur living in San Diego and a father of three children. The mission of SingleDad is to help the community of Single Parents
“Make Life Happen…Again!”