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By Jasmine Rivers

The marriage or relationship is over. Now what? At the time my ex and I broke up, I was working a full-time job. He left in the middle of the night and I couldn't afford to call off of work so our children went with him. I figured after the tension blew over him and the babies would be back, but days turned into weeks and I realized that our relationship was over. He wasn't coming back and the idea of co-parenting began to consume my thoughts. Overnight stays and rotating weekends can certainly be annoying and disrupting to the life you had while you were with your ex.

I'd like to believe that the most challenging aspect is your view of parenting versus that of your ex's. What do you do when your once Christian boyfriend is now Muslim? Or what if he believes that it's ok for your child to have premarital sex while you try to promote abstinence until marriage? The unfortunate part is that most of us don't ask those questions prior to having children. We fall in love and let our emotions guide us. Making decisions based on our emotions and not logically is one of the biggest causes of divided families. According to the Center for Disease Control's 2015 statistics, 43.5 out of 1,000 births were by unmarried women.

Out of 2,140,272 marriages in 2014, 813,862 ended in divorce or annulment. Marriage rates are declining while childbirth consistently increases. The shows and movies we watch are different. The Cosby's were replaced with shows such as Scandal and Power that tell our youth that it's ok to grow up and have affairs, leave their marriage and go off to start a completely new family. Humans are impressionable and we pay attention to the media and celebrities. A divided family seems to be the hot new accessory that many celebrities tote around. People follow the lives of their idols; Celeb parents such as J. Lo and Marc Anthony, Lil Wayne and Toya, Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon make it seem like a breeze, but I'm sure they can attest that it takes consistent work and dedication. It is difficult, and anyone who says that it is a cakewalk is a liar. Flat out!

Co-parenting seems to be just as popular as J. Cole's latest album. Think about it ... How many of your friends, family members and coworkers with children are married to or in a relationship with the father/mother of their child? I know it's unintentional. Most men and women want to be married prior to having children and those who are married don't plan for a divorce. Believe me when I say I tried hard to make my relationship with my children's father work, but not every relationship is meant to be saved. The most important thing to remember is that the focus should always remain on the children.

It takes relentless hard work. It's imperative that the relationship between you and your child's father is cordial. My ex and I have a pretty decent relationship and it took some deep soul searching and forgiving to get to that point after the breakup. I had to realize that our actions will have a long-lasting effect on them and will be a deciding factor in their life decisions and in their relationships. You have to think about the emotional and mental advancement of your child. Remember, we are raising the future. I'd like to share a few tips to help you along your co­-parenting journey.

Don't talk negatively about your ex in front of your child, regardless of the fact that he is the biggest jerk you've ever encountered. Your emotions should not be an influence on the relationship he has with your child. Establish a cordial relationship with your ex's new girlfriend/wife. it doesn't matter if he cheated with her. you've cried and now it's time to grow up for your child's sake. Children need to around heal thy positive relationships.

Establish boundaries and rules regarding your child's behavior. One parent will always be a bit laxer than the other, however, both of you should be on the same page as far as what is and isn't acceptable behavior.

Enjoy the alone time spent away from your child. use your break to catch up on housekeeping or your business. plan a date if you have a love interest. take care of yourself and use this time to reflect and recharge so you will be at your best when your child comes home. Co-parenting has certainly become the new norm so handle it with grace, love, and dignity.

Spring 2017


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