Author Archives: Ebony

4 Ways to Teach Black Children The Importance of Tradition and Family

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Family is an important hallmark of Black culture.  It used to be that teaching kids how to value family was pretty straightforward, even when generations were separated geographically.  Parents, for example, might send their kids down South with “Big Mama” and other elders for the summer.  My husband talks fondly about traveling to southern Alabama every summer with his grandparents and enjoying the time with his great-uncles, great-aunts and cousins.

Families have changed a lot since then.  How close family members live to each other, who makes up your family, even how family is defined.  In terms of my immediate family, we are blessed to live near both my and my husband’s extended family.  We also have our church family, who we consider just as important as our blood relatives.  For you, it may be different.  With all this diversity, it can be hard to figure out who and what family is.  And if it’s hard for us to pin down, it’s even harder for our kids.  But we still want our kids to have a sense of family.  How do we nurture that?  These four questions and activities will help.

Who’s In Your Family?
One activity you can do is to have your kids draw their family.  Get out a piece of paper and drawing instruments (e.g. crayons, coloring pencils, pens).  Ask your kids to draw the people they see as part of their family.  After they are done, ask them questions about the picture.  Who’s in the picture?  Why did you put them in the picture?

Where Does Your Family Come From?
You can also use this as an opportunity to speak to them about their genealogy and family origins.  Who are your parents’ parents?  Where did they grow up?  Where did they come from?  To bring this more to life, you can visit a local Black History museum if you are near one. Visit exhibits geared towards the history of the family.  Kids love learning about how other kids lived long ago.  Ask them questions about the exhibits.  What were some things that families did generations ago?  Were they surprised?  Would they want to do those things now?  Encourage them to ask their elders about what they learned.  Did Grandma used to be a sharecropper?  Did Granddaddy participate in Civil Rights demonstrations?  Even the everyday things.  Did their great-aunt grow her own veggies?  Did their great-uncle wear suits everyday?

What Traditions Does Your Family Have?
You can also develop family traditions to teach kids about building connections as a family.  One tradition our family has is Family Movie Night on Friday, which has temporarily turned into Family Shark Tank Friday.  We gather in the living room, relax, and discuss whose businesses seem like good ideas.  In terms of holidays, one thing we do is spend New Year’s Eve together, bringing the New Year in wearing our PJs and cuddled up together on the couch.

What Makes A Family A Family?
But teaching kids about family is not just about teaching them about their families, but family diversity.  Kids are bound to see all kinds of families in the world today and wonder what makes them a family.  One activity you can do is called Family Hands.  I use the metaphor of hands because a common thread through all families is a sense of being linked together, of holding hands together.  Sit down with your kids, this handout or some blank paper, and some drawing instruments.  Ask them to think about their family.  What do they like about their family?  What things do you all do together?  Do you help each other?  Look out for each other?  Go fun places together?  If they can write, have them write something they like for each finger on the handout.  If not, ask them to draw their family doing an activity together.  Then explain to them that these qualities are what makes them a family.  Ask them if they’ve seen these qualities in other families and whether these families look like theirs.  Do they have a mom?  A dad?  Brothers? Sisters? Aunts? Uncles? Grandparents? Help kids understand that families don’t all have to look alike to be happy together.

Nurturing an appreciation for family in your kids can help them and you in many ways.  They may be more helpful, more secure and kinder to others.  Not only that, they will understand how much their ancestors had to work to keep families together.

What are some ways you nurture an appreciation for family with your kids?

10 Ways to Prepare Mentally and Emotionally for Motherhood

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When women ask me what the biggest shock of becoming a mother was, my answer often surprises them: adjusting to a new lifestyle.  Becoming a mother is one of the most empowering changes I’ve experienced.  I didn’t realize, though, how much my daily life would change.  Yeah, I knew my son would require a lot of attention and care, but I didn’t realize that I would have to wait until my son woke up from a nap to go to Target.  Or that I might feel too exhausted to hang out with friends even if I had a babysitter.  Or that having a old rear-wheel drive Caprice Classic set up for cruising with music blasting (it’s a Detroit thing) probably wasn’t the best baby transportation for Michigan winters.  Some days I would look in the mirror and ask, “Who are you?”  In other words, I wasn’t mentally prepared for the ways my life would change when I became a mother.  So I encourage would-be and will-be moms to get ready.

So how do you that?  Here are 10 ideas!

1. Take a “babymoon”.  Take some time to travel to a new place or even an old favorite before the baby comes.  While I was pregnant with my son, I went to New Orleans with a girlfriend and had a great time.  If you don’t have the money or time to travel, take a stay-cation, relax and rest.  You’ll need it.

2. Do something silly.  Having a kid tends to make people feel more responsible.  I’m not saying you don’t have silly moments, but after your child comes, you start seeing yourself through his or her eyes.  That might stop you dead in your tracks when you want to dance barefoot in the rain, for example, because you want to set a ‘good example’.  So go ahead, dance in the rain now while no one’s watching.

3. Enjoy some child-free sex. You know those hours-long sessions that resulted in you getting pregnant? It won’t be the same when a kid’s around. Trust me.

4. Get used to all the “stuff” that comes with a child.  When you have a baby, you don’t just have the baby.  You have the diaper bag, the changes of clothes, the stroller, the pack and play, the toys.  Carrying all this “stuff” smoothly takes practice, so enjoy not being a bag lady before the baby comes.

5. Baby sit.  Maybe some of you spend a lot of time with babies and already know what to expect.  Me?  I was living the free and easy single life.  The first day I brought my son home from the hospital, I spent at least a half-hour staring at him and asking him, “How am I gonna take care of you!?”  So if you think that might be you, find a mama-baby pair and spend some time with them.  Then try taking the jump into babysitting for a few hours to see how it feels.

6. Move your body.  It’s tempting to spend your pregnancy sitting in front of the TV and eating.  But it doesn’t pay off after the pregnancy when you could use a healthy body when dealing with the work of mothering a newborn.  So move your body while you’re pregnant if you can.  Go for walks, take a pregnancy fitness class—there are multiple ways you can move your body and stay healthy.

7. Clean house.  Not that nesting-type cleaning.  Purge!  Nothing is going to annoy you more than having a lot of junk you don’t need in the midst of all the stuff that comes with raising a baby (see #4).  You likely won’t have the energy to deal with it for a while either.  If you can get rid of some things beforehand, you may feel more at peace afterwards.

8. Save some money.  One place I really felt the shock was in my wallet.  Babies are expensive!  Again, having not had much time with babies before my own, I didn’t realize this.  I spent way too much money at Target while pregnant and had little to show for it than junk (see #7).  Save your money for the baby.

9. Start a journal if you don’t have one. You’ll want to record your journey through motherhood, but if you aren’t in the habit of doing it, you may not pick it up when you’re in the midst of wiping drool and changing diapers.  It also helps you make sense of all the changes and transitions in your life.  And speaking of developing habits…

10. Make a commitment to follow a dream by moving forward on one major step.   After having a baby, if you’re not careful, you may leave your dreams behind. Do something to put your dreams into action now, so you can know you got started.  Even if your goals change over time, at least you made the commitment to follow through on something that is important to you.

But what if you’ve already had your baby and you’re asking yourself, “How do I get myself back?”  Don’t worry.  The feeling of being someone else is temporary.  Eventually, you’ll learn how pre-mama you and mama-you fit together.  Your energy is better spent bonding with your beautiful child.  But while that precious baby is asleep, go ahead and sneak in a barefoot dance in the rain.  I won’t tell.

Dr. Ebony Reddock’s mission is to support mothers in living healthier, more balanced lives. She is a writer, researcher and workshop facilitator on mothers’ health and wellness. She’s also an advocate for the conditions that help mothers take care of themselves and their families. You can find more information about her work, including her blog and other resources, at ecreddock.com

I’m a Black Woman, and I Had Postpartum Depression

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Almost nine years ago, I was a new single mom in graduate school. In many ways, this should have been a time of great celebration. New baby and new opportunities in life. But instead, I was full of dread. I believed that I was alone in the world and that nothing would go right. Postpartum depression was a subtle, but persistent presence in my life—a dark cloud that affected how I interpreted everything.

In hindsight, I now see the different ways my depression manifested itself. Sometimes, after putting my son to bed,  I was so exhausted that I would fall asleep on the couch and wake up a few hours later to the TV blaring and the front door wide open. My relationships with others suffered as well. This ranged from yelling and screaming at my son’s father to nights when I would just hold my son in my arms and cry. Other times,  I would get so frustrated with my son that I would have to leave him crying in his crib until I calmed down enough to care for him. I also had unhealthy attachments to drugs and alcohol. Since my mom lived down the street and regularly babysat, I had plenty of time to have a couple of drinks or smoke a few joints. I didn’t realize that I was self-medicating or that my usage was substantially higher than before I became pregnant.

For the most part, I chalked my sadness and anxiety up to “a crazy life.” I was so good at hiding my feelings and unhealthy behavior from others that others thought that I had it all together. And in fact, I thought my pain was just part of being a “strong Black mother.” But it became too difficult to handle. Thankfully, my insurance covered mental health services, so I sought out a therapist. She taught me how to question my unhealthy thoughts before they turned into depressive episodes. With her support, as well as exercise, my mood lifted. When I had my daughter, I chose to take anti-depressants, as I was at high risk for another bout of postpartum depression.

Since 10 to 15 percent of mothers will experience postpartum depression, it is important to note that depression isn’t always the stereotypical portrayal of crying and overt sadness. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, postpartum depression includes less obvious symptoms such as:

  • Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Experiencing anger or rage
  • Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
  • Suffering from physical aches and pains, including frequent headaches, stomach problems, and muscle pain
  • Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with your baby
  • Persistently doubting your ability to care for your baby
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    Pregnancy-related depression may begin during pregnancy as well. Since my mood swings began during pregnancy,  I was used to being sad and didn’t really notice that I wasn’t getting better by the time I had my son. There’s a stereotype about pregnant women that “hormones make us crazy, ” which I believed as well,  but it may be more than hormones causing those intense changes in mood.

    If you think you may be experiencing postpartum depression, don’t just ignore it or assume that struggle and pain are normal aspects of Black women’s lives. Reach out to a trained professional who has learned how to treat mental health issues. While I’m all about reaching out to friends, family or spiritual counselors, these individuals are better suited to offer you support while you heal. There are multiple treatment options, such as counseling and medication. In mild cases of depression, exercise and stress-relieving activities help women balance their moods.

    Postpartum depression is a serious issue.  I am thankful my children weren’t harmed because of my symptoms and self-destructive behaviors. If you think you are experiencing depression, contact a professional ASAP. We owe it to ourselves and our families.

    For more information on postpartum depression, go to the Office of Women’s Health website. 

    Dr. Ebony Reddock’s mission is to support mothers in living healthier, more balanced lives. She is a writer, researcher and workshop facilitator on mothers’ health and wellness. She’s also an advocate for the conditions that help mothers take care of themselves and their families. You can find more information about her work, including her blog and other resources, at ecreddock.com

    10 Activities for the High-Energy Child

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    With winter being almost over, kids (and grown-ups!) are bound to be restless.  But it’s still too cold for people to be outside a lot.  For kids who are low-key, this might not be the biggest deal, but for active kids, this can seem like torture.  My son is a perfect example.  He loves to be on the go.  Just today, I gave my active son an opportunity to stay from school because it was a half-day.  HE CHOSE TO GO TO SCHOOL.  Being in the house too much drives him crazy, and school is better than nowhere.

    You can only spend so much time outside, especially when your kids are young.  And TV’s no fun.  So what do you do?  Here are some ideas for activities that will keep even the busiest of kids interested:

    Things You Can Do At Home

    You don’t have to go far to keep an active kid occupied.

    1. Sensory Activities: Most kids, especially active kids, love the chance to make a mess.  One place I look for ideas is Pinterest.  Play At Home LLC, a woman-owned business devoted to creating activities to do at home, has a nice Pinterest page. Another nice Pinterest page is hosted by the Kid Blogger Network and focuses on activities for kids with sensory issues.

    2. Build, Build, Build!  Kids love making things BIG.  Give them a bunch of scraps from around the house: paper or plastic cups, old paper towel rolls, boxes, straws, pots and pans…you’ll keep them occupied for a while.  If you want more formal ideas, PBSKids’ Zoom website has a lot of them.

    3. Do science experiments.  In addition to building things, you can also do messy experiments.  PBSKids’ Lab is a resource for ideas. The bonus?  You get them interested in science.  If you want to make it even more of a lesson, talk to them about Black scientists, so they see themselves as one of a long line of explorers.  A comprehensive list of Black scientists organized by field can be found here. Wikipedia also maintains a list of Black scientists and inventors.

    4. Role play.  This one works really well for my son.  With or without a TV, he can take items of clothing and toys and turn them into another world.  If you want to find actual costumes for your kid, check out local thrift shops or stock up after Halloween, when the discounts are deep.

    Things That Get You Out The House

    Doing things at home will only keep their calm so long.  They need to run!  So when that happens, here are some more ideas.

    6. Go to “grandma’s” house.  Or someone else in your support network.  Active kids, actually most kids, like new settings.  Visiting someone gives them a chance to be in another space.  It also gives you a chance to chill out and spend some time with grown-ups.

    7. Take advantage of play places.  These places are God-sends! You can either go to ones that have paid admission or “free” places like McDonald’s or Burger King or the local mall.  In our area, we have a business called Jungle Java that has a few locations. The advantages of the paid places are that they are cleaner, often stocked with healthier food, and generally safer.  The advantage of the “free” places are that they are FREE or low cost (if you purchase a fast food item).

    8. Visit the best library in your area.  All libraries are not created equal.  One library might have a small children’s section, while another has a huge children’s library with toys, play areas, and puppet theaters.  In Michigan, we have a program called MI Library Card, that allows reciprocal library borrowing privileges to member libraries. Chances are, your state has one too.  Even if it doesn’t, libraries are open to the public.  They can’t stop you from visiting!

    9. Go play sports.  There are many places devoted to sports activities: ice skating, roller skating, basketball, soccer, you name it.  Sometimes, these places offer discounted admission and rental, particularly for days where it’s not busy.  Explore the recreation department websites for your city and cities around you and do some price comparisons.

    10. Buy a kids’ science museum membership.  When I first had my son I would have never thought to spend my hard-earned and limited cash on one.  But one day I took him to a science museum, and realized that it cost only a few dollars more to buy the membership, so I did. It ends up being a great place to go when it’s nasty outside.  Kids rarely make it through the entire place, so there’s usually something new to see.  Even if they do, they end up picking their favorite spots.  When I am low on funds, and the kids are high on energy, it’s a free place I can go.  A bonus is that with membership to an Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) affiliated museum, you get free entrance to any member museum that’s less than 90 miles away from your “home” institution. And you’re supporting local culture! The Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) has a similar program, but the entrance is 50% off, not free.

    Mamas, what do you do to keep your active child engaged?

    Ebony Reddock is a wife and mother of an eight year old and a four year old, as well as a writer, researcher and advocate for mothers.  She blogs at her webpage,  ecreddock.com

    Baby Love: Ebony, Mark and Maya

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    Meet, Ebony, one of our new Baby and Blog writers.

    Tell us about your life.
    E:
    I live in Michigan, in a rural town an hour from Detroit.  Currently,  I work part-time for a university doing policy advocacy work promoting the interests of Michigan women living in or near poverty.  I recently finished my PhD in public health, where I focused my research on African American mothers and stress.  My life passions include my faith in Jesus, my family, supporting women, writing, reading, music and crafts.  All these things sustain me emotionally and spiritually.  I have two kids, Mark, who is eight, and Maya, who is four.  My husband’s name is Mark.

    Reddock Family

    Tell us about your kids!
    E:
    Both my kids are pretty precocious, always saying something that seems beyond their years.  Mark is always “on”, ready to go on an adventure or the life of the party.  He’s also sensitive and kind.

    Ebony and Mark

    Maya is quiet, low-key, and thoughtful.  She has an infectious laugh and loves to cling to her parents and her brother.  If it were up to her, she would just stay home with family.

    Ebony and Maya

    How were your births?
    E:
    My kids’ birth stories are as different as their personalities.  When I was pregnant with my son, I was a single woman working full time and going to school.  My water broke three days after I went on maternity leave.  I didn’t start contractions until I agreed to getting induced with Pitocin, which is no joke!  My  delivery room was full of folk–my girlfriend, my good male friend and my son’s father (now my husband) and others who came to visit off and on. After 6-7 hours of Pitocin-induced contractions and multiple attempts to cope with the pain (walking, shower, ball), I agreed to sedation.  After that, I couldn’t bring myself to go back to the pain and got an epidural.  Finally, 27 hours after my water broke, I hadn’t dilated past 4cm.  I agreed to a C-section.

    My daughter’s birth was very different.  I knew I wanted to be a VBAC, so I chose a nurse-midwives’ office.  Like now, she was clingy.  On my due date, I was not close to delivering, so I had my membranes stripped. The next day, the contractions started.  After laboring all night, my then-fiance and I went to the hospital where the midwife eventually sent me home with sleeping pills and a guess that I’d be back later that evening.  I went home, ate lunch, took a pill, and went to sleep.  I woke up four hours later to my water breaking and in intense pain.  This time, I was admitted by the same midwife.  “Told you you’d be back!” the midwife chuckled.  I got an epidural, but before it kicked in fully, I delivered my daughter vaginally, less than two hours after being admitted.

    mark and maya at church

    I have no regrets about either of my births, because I believe they happened as they were supposed to.  They also provided valuable lessons about parenting–sometimes it won’t end up like we’d expect.  That has been a struggle for me.

    What is your biggest parenting challenge?
    E:
    Right now, my biggest challenge is patience.  My son has ADHD, which can be demanding.  He is very energetic.  I always say my daughter has the best big brother, because he’s always down for playing or imagining.  But I am an introvert, and so I need quiet time and space sometimes.  It’s hard to get that, and when I don’t, I get irritable and short-tempered.  But I am learning to be proactive, taking time when I need it, before it gets intense.

    Who is your child-rearing support group?
    E:
    That’s especially important because I am managing a lot–raising two kids while working and taking care of a household keeps me busy.  More and more, I try to be present as much as possible when I am with my family, because I am so busy with work sometimes.  I also rely on my sisters in Christ, my biological younger sister, and my mom for support.  We encourage each other, even keeping each others’ kids when we need a break.  Sometimes mothering is hard, but focusing on why I do it is important.

    What is the most important value, ideal or philosophy you want to impart to your children?
    E:
    Ultimately, I want my kids to put Christ first.  If they do that, everything else will fall into place.  They will be caring, loving, considerate, responsible, family-oriented and willing to stand up for what’s right no matter the consequences.  That makes the stressful times worth it.

    What advice would you give to a new mom?
    E:
    If there was one bit of advice I’d give a new mom, it’d be this: take care of yourself because only then  can you take care of others.

    Ebony Reddock is a wife and mother of an eight year old and a four year old, as well as a writer, researcher and advocate for mothers.  She blogs at her webpage,  ecreddock.com

    5 Ways to Introduce Your Children to Black History

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    It’s February—a great time to introduce your kids to Black history!  With so many celebrations, commercials and programs for Black History Month, your child may even be asking you about their heritage.  Since the history of Black Americans is so rich, you may feel intimidated about how to start conversations with your kids.  To help you and your kids get the most out of those first conversations about Black History, here are some tips.

  • Start with their interests.  All kids have something they love.  Maybe it’s trains, princesses, sports or dolls.  Use those interests to engage them in learning more about Black History.  For example, my daughter loves princesses.  So I shared with her that Princess Tiana from The Princess and the Frog was the first Black Disney princess.  My son loves basketball, so I share facts about Black players in the NBA while we watch the games.
  • Share history in the form of stories.  If you haven’t figured it out already, kids love stories.  Pick up books from the library featuring Black characters.  If you are so blessed, find elders who are willing to share stories about their experiences.  After all, Black History isn’t just about honoring famous people, it’s about remembering the experiences of Black Americans from all walks of life.
  • Go exploring.  Especially in February, there are many events and places to see.  Take advantage of these activities.  If your area has a Black history museum, grab the kids and go.  If you live in an area with multiple landmarks, such as historically Black neighborhoods or homes of famous Black Americans, take a tour by foot, bus, or car.
  • Use relatable objects, activities and places to start conversations.  Passing a traffic light? Tell them a Black man, Garrett Morgan, invented the traffic signal.  Cooking?  Try some “soul food” recipes while discussing the relationship between Black Americans and food.  Are there any facts related to your geographic area that might be interesting?  We live in Metro Detroit, so we tell our kids about famous Black Americans who grew up in the area, such as Dr. Ben Carson.  When we go down South, we tell them stories shared with us by our grandparents about living in the Jim Crow era.
  • Keep it simple and fun.  If Black History feels dull and boring or long and complicated, kids won’t want to learn more.  You may be tempted to give kids the whole story on slavery and Jim Crow, but that may be more than they can handle at a young age.   Kids will let you know if you’ve shared too much either through their behavior or words.  My son is quick to tell me if I’ve given him more information than he can process.   You want your kids to come back for more knowledge, so keeping it fun is key.
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    Here are some online resources you can check out for more information:

    Scholastic Kids Press Corps page on Black History has stories, by kids, on different Black History topics: http://www.scholastic.com/browse/collection.jsp?id=706

    Encyclopedia Britannica has teacher activities that parents can adapt for use with their kids: http://www.britannica.com/blackhistory

    Family Education has a Black History page with coloring pages, quizzes, links and other activities: http://fun.familyeducation.com/black-history-month/holidays/32871.html

    Introducing Black History may feel challenging at first.  But by integrating it into your everyday activities and experiences, you can make it fun and engaging for you and your kids.

    Ladies, how do you introduce your children to black history? Share your experiences and advice below.

    Ebony Reddock is a wife and mother of an eight year old and a four year old, as well as a writer, researcher and advocate for mothers.  She blogs at her webpage, ecreddock.com

    Leave the Drama Behind: 5 Ways to Co-Parent When You’re Not Married to Your Child’s Father

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    By Ebony Reddock

    Before my husband and I married, we were a baby-mama and baby-daddy to our son.  Sharing parenting responsibility with an ex can be difficult.  I’m almost ashamed to admit some of the things I did, like the time I slapped him with keys or cursed him out in a church parking lot.  I know he has moments he wants to forget too.  But after some rough patches, we got to the point where we could co-parent cooperatively.  I’m sure you’re thinking we could work cooperatively only because we were still interested in a relationship.  But the truth is that we learned to cooperate way before we married or even began dating again.

    Co-parenting isn’t just sharing custody of a kid and doing what you do while he do what he do.  It’s making decisions about your child together, about schools or health care.  While I’m writing this with exes in mind, the fact is that married or otherwise stable couples have to work at co-parenting too.  There is one prerequisite to co-parenting: it requires two people.  If your current or former partner isn’t interested in being cooperative, then you will need to set boundaries for yourself and your kids.  But you can still use some of these suggestions to keep the tension low as possible.

    Co-parenting can feel unnecessary or weird at first, especially if it’s different than how you were raised.  I grew up in a family where women ruled the roost.  Some women in my family didn’t understand why I didn’t just tell my son’s father what he had to do and be done with it.  Let’s just say that strategy didn’t sit well with him.  Trying to parent differently was the hardest thing for me.  But we wanted our son to grow up knowing he had two parents who loved him so much that they were willing to put their drama aside for him.  Here are five suggestions that helped us as we learned to co-parent successfully:

    5 Ways To Successfully Co-parent

    1. Put Emotions Aside:  If there are two things that most people get super emotional about, it’s children and relationships.  But you can’t co-parent if you let your emotions lead the way.  If you need help with that, try to imagine yourself ten years from now, answering your kid when he or she asks you why you and Daddy hate each other. And sometimes, you have to fake it ’til you make it.  Treat each other with respect, even if you don’t genuinely feel that way.  Even play nice with his family, if you can.   When my now-husband and I put our drama aside for our son, that’s when we started to work as a team.

    2. Set Ground Rules: You both have issues that are important to you.  But other issues? Not so much.  Decide what’s non-negotiable and what’s negotiable.  Is McDonald’s every once in a while really gonna kill your kid? Probably not.  But will your ex taking your son to Uncle Charlie the drug dealer’s house?  Maybe.  When you’re co-parenting with an ex, you have to be firm about the issues that are non-negotiable, but flexible on the rest.  Don’t forget to set rules about child support too.  Automatically getting the courts involved is not always the answer.  We stayed out of the courts, which was good for us.  For others, getting the courts involved might be the better option.  Talk this, and all issues, over with your ex.  AND–don’t just set ground rules–make a commitment to honor them too.

    3. Be Patient:  It took at least two persistent years, a lot of arguments and long conversations before we could say we trusted each other.  Learning to co-parent takes time, especially when there isn’t trust there.  And that’s usually the case with exes.  Unless you’re one of those couples that broke up amicably, you probably have issues you’re still upset about.  Healing from that, and being able to work cooperatively, takes time.

    4. Keep It Classy: I know I don’t have to say this to you–this is for someone else, right?  Don’t become the aggressive baby-mama and baby-daddy fighting in the street, or the baby-mama and baby-daddy still messing around and confusing their child.  Keeping it classy with my son’s father was definitely not something I was good at in the beginning.  I already shared with you my tendency to fly off the handle.  If you’re co-parenting with an ex, there’s bound to be some messy feelings.  Maybe it’s anger.  Maybe it’s sexual attraction.  But don’t muddy the waters with some temporary nonsense from an argument or baby-daddy sex.  It will make learning to co-parent that much harder.

    5. Spend Time Together With Your Child:  Even though you aren’t in a relationship, you are still family because you share a child together.  Once you have gotten past any beginning awkwardness from co-parenting, make a point to spend time together with your child.  Go to the movies.  Take your child out to lunch.  Go to the park.  It helps you learn to work cooperatively, and your child sees that you are a team.

    It may take a while before you see the fruits of your labors.  But if both of you are committed to being co-parents, you will eventually see that work pay off.  How do you and your child’s father work cooperatively?  What kinds of ground rules are non-negotiable for you?

    Ebony Reddock is a wife, mother of two, writer, researcher and workshop facilitator on mothers’ health and wellness.  She is also an advocate promoting social, political and economic conditions that help mothers take care of themselves and their families.  Her mission is to support mothers who want to live healthier, more balanced lives.  Visit her at her website: www.ecreddock.com