Creating a Partnership with Your Co-Parent with Dr. Ebony Roberts

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During our Co-Parenting & Coffee event, Dr. Ebony Roberts shared her co-parenting experience and spoke to a virtual audience about building a partnership with your co-parent. Roberts is an author, researcher, and longtime activist in the food justice and prison abolition movements. Additionally, she is a celebrated speaker and a co-parent. Her TEDxDetroit talk with her co-parent, titled ‘How to co-parent as allies, not adversaries,’ has garnered over 1.5 million views online.

Collaborative Co-Parenting

Ebony shared that building a partnership with a co-parent is about working as a team to benefit your children. Some see co-parenting as parenting but building a cooperative relationship with a co-parent is not a given. Co-parenting requires an investment of work and dedicated effort. It isn’t easy, but it is doable. As with any relationship, you may be putting in more time than the other person or may not see the other parent's work. In the end, creating a collaborative relationship is worth the time and effort in that it benefits your children.

Cooperative co-parenting relationships positively impact a child’s social and emotional development. Happy and well-adjusted kids do better in school and life.

Ebony underlines that no one parent is in a silo. All parents are members and coaches of a child’s team, and the shared goal is to raise healthy, thriving children.

Building Healthy Relationships

Ebony was with her child’s father for nine years, and their relationship ended when their son was three years old. The strong friendship at the foundation of their relationship allowed them to adjust to their new roles as co-parents. While this isn’t the case for all co-parents, Ebony wants to use her experience to help other co-parents. She shared her top tips and advice on what enables her and her co-parent to act as allies in their relationship.

Focus on the Positive

Ebony subscribes to the belief that your thoughts create your reality. When you focus on the challenging, frustrating parts of your relationship, that’s what you get out of it. When you focus on the wins, even the small victories (which Ebony reminds parents to always count, because each success is important), you’ll have more wins to celebrate.

The ‘glass is half-full’ philosophy has worked for Ebony. She recommends getting in the habit of saying things that you like about your co-parent—things you like about them as a person and co-parent. Say these things out loud and in front of your child. If that seems tough, try to think about the things that your child likes about your co-parent.

At the end of the day, no matter the relationship you have with your co-parent, your child more than likely adores him/her and loves things about them that you may not see. Look at the other parent through the eyes of your child and consider times that you worked well together. Was there a time you tag-teamed a school event, or perhaps they didn’t respond the way you expected in an argument? Those are wins.

When you finish your win-list, read it over and (if you choose to) share it with your co-parent. Reminding your co-parent that you see them and recognize and appreciate the things that they do for your child can help build your partnership.

Ebony recommends holding onto this list and coming back to it during times of frustration. It can be a good way to see the big picture of your co-parenting relationship and think about the more positive moments.

Take Your Ego Out of Co-Parenting

In co-parenting, you may not always see eye to eye. You may value your position and opinions over the other person’s, which can lead to more arguments and non-productive conversations. If you find yourself being defensive, reacting from an emotional place, or being offended, it might be your ego doing the talking.

There is a difference between responding and reacting. Responding is leading with empathy and understanding for the other person’s position. Reacting is leading with emotion and creating a story based on what you perceive. The stories we tell ourselves and our interpretations can be biased based on past hurt. When possible, step away and take the time to ask yourself if your reaction was coming from a place of ego. Start to learn and recognize your triggers to avoid the conversations that lead to these reactions.

It is not easy to operate out of love and not fear. Ebony has wrestled with fears of the unknown, and when she talks about love, in this case, she means love in a co-parenting relationship. Unlike the romantic love that once existed between two people, you transfer that energy into a focus on their good as a parent, not as a romantic partner. It is important to always lead with what is best for your child, not yourself. While you may not always get your way, you will often find a happy medium in cooperating for your child’s best interest.

Be as Inclusive as Possible

Your child has two different lives with each parent. Ebony says that while she may not be married, she is not a single parent because she doesn’t parent alone. Including her child’s dad in doctor’s appointments and keeping him aware of what is going on when he is not there is an important part of their partnership. They talk about minor and major decisions, and she makes sure he knows about parent-teacher conferences or other activities.

Ebony tries to send her co-parent pictures of their child throughout the week to include him in their son’s life. This inclusive communication helps her co-parent be there when he’s not physically there and helps their son see that his dad is included.

Ebony sees her son’s dad as a partner, and when she is frustrated with motherhood, she can reach out to him for support and advice. No one knows your child in the way that you do, which establishes that the partnership can be important for your child and for you.

One Step at a Time

Your child’s other parent is the only person who cares for and loves your child as much as you do. Ebony encourages parents to nurture their relationship with their co-parent. If turning to therapy or other resources is what you need, connect yourself with experts in your area who can assist you. There are many professionals who have the tools and the experience to help you move past relationship history and work with your co-parent to raise your child.

If you want to learn more about Dr. Ebony Roberts, you can visit her website, or follow her on Instagram.

TalkingParents blogs are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Always consult with a qualified attorney regarding legal matters.

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