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Split parenting: Making it work

September 12, 2013

The joy of fatherhood: Helpful tips for fathers and men who want to become fathers

by Morris Turner

Unresolved issues between adults can greatly affect the state of mind of the children in a “split parented” family. Don’t fool yourself. Children of all ages, including babies, are extremely perceptive and able to recognize feelings of love, comfort and safety as well as tension, frustration and anger. It is critical that both parents talk about these issues and think about how they will impact the children well before there is any visitation scheduled.

Ken Duncan Sr., twin daughters
Ken Duncan Sr. with his twin daughters
The relationship you had with the mother of your child may have been drama ridden, and unresolved issues may continue to fester. Please remember one thing above all else: Keep the drama to yourselves and don’t let it spill over into the lives of your children. It is painful enough that they have to go through the trauma of being separated from both their parents, not knowing why and possibly blaming themselves for the breakup.

As a parent, whether in a united home or parenting from a distance, it is important to understand that you are always teaching. Teaching from your words and teaching from your actions. For your children, you are a living example of how to handle the challenges of life.

Start off on the right foot. Be a good listener and acknowledge that it took two people to create the relationship and that the same two people must take responsibility for its successes and failures. You now have the opportunity and responsibility to start fresh and create a new relationship based on the mutual love and caring of your children.

Work out – don’t dictate – clear ground rules with the mother regarding visitation. Issues like money and other parental obligations should be discussed and resolved in a “one on one” setting, not during a visitation when the children are present. “Don’t mix apples and oranges.”

It won’t always be easy or comfortable, but try to remember that this is about the health of your child, both mental and physical. Your needs as an adult have to take a back seat, so check your ego at the door. Your buttons may get pushed but, as I stated earlier, you are teaching your child how to handle life and its challenges. Be a good teacher and student as well.

Morris Turner is the father of two sons, ages 39 and 35. Over the past 45 years he has worked with children and young people in a variety of settings, including as preschool teacher, career counselor, family mentor and sports coach. He is also an author and recognized researcher in the area of African American settlement in the United States, but his greatest pleasure today is learning to be a good grandpa. He can be reached at or by calling (707) 794-0729.


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