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Challenges of co-parenting and how to handle them

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When breakups happen, it’s true that it not only hurts the people involved in the relationship but also, those around it. Your close ones also suffer invariably due to separation and ties. It’s arguably harder for children whose parents get divorced, as they have to juggle between two separate lives now. With societal norms telling us that once divorce happens, it breaks everybody down in it, isn’t true. Divorced parents have been trying to overcome this view since ages.

Unless there has been a serious issue of domestic violence or abuse, co-parenting has increasingly taken form in recent years. Now, even if both of them are divorced, the parents have a mutual understanding among themselves about raising their children the right way. It’s very essential to provide a suitable environment for children in their growing years because that’s when they learn and process most things. Co-parenting enables parents to retain a close relationship with their children and strongly influence their values and wellbeing during their growing years.

Keeping aside the disagreements, fights and issues, parents must learn to agree and compromise on their opinions and views while co-parenting their children. Disagreeing with each other on personal issues is one thing but on their children, it’s a matter to be taken seriously. It’s necessary to respect each other’s views when it comes to their kids.

Why is co-parenting looked down upon?


Cultural and religious norms showcase divorce as a social evil. Divorcees are often looked down upon because according to society, ‘they couldn’t compromise or keep their private lives to themselves’. While choosing to divorce is completely a matter between the couple, the society takes the liberty to interfere and pass obnoxious judgements all the time.

Similarly, society frames that a discovered couple can never take care of their children. People often voice their opinions that if the couple couldn’t solve their marital problem, they will be passing down the same, nasty values to their children. Their kids will grow knowing that their parent’s marriage wasn’t perfect, nor their life can be. The society questions the very existence of the co-parenting concept; it believes that a couple can never teach anything valuable to their children after a divorce. They would do more harm than any good.

Such judgemental thoughts and opinions can pose a threat to the child’s well-being. If the parents can contribute sufficient and equal time to the kids, then it shouldn’t be a problem. It’s common, human nature that a child would want to spend equal time with their mother and father, no matter whom they like more. Passing down good, moral values can be done in any way; there’s no need to disrespect a couple’s personal decision to co-parent.

Cooperation between parents is valuable

All of these are fine, provided the couple is really mature to put aside their differences for their kid’s sake. The key to successful co-parenting is to put a firm barrier between personal relationship and the co-parenting relationship. If you love your child dearly, you have to put forward your family first. Their best interest should be the foremost priority.

A child feels safe and secure when there is a positive environment surrounding them. Kids adjust more quickly to those divorced parents who feel confident about their parent’s love. Additionally, if there’s consistency among both parents about fostering similar rules, disciplines, schedules, children feel a similar environment in both homes.

Establishing a healthy co-parent relationship can actually teach your children values different from regular ones. For example, even if two individuals do not agree with each other, they are ready to compromise after analysing the situation on hand. Working as a team gives a practical experience for the child so that they can implement similar values of team coordination further down the line.

Co-parenting can be a practical experience for a family that’s broken up due to interpersonal issues. Downright disrespecting millions of divorced parents who’ve done everything they could to co-parent is not the way to go. A child can flourish even in the toughest situations, just with the help and support of their parents.


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What cooking skills should children learn? | Food

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What’s the best way to get children interested in cooking, and what should I teach them?
Georgie, Suffolk

The golden rule, says Thomasina Miers, is patience – and lots of it. “It can be a slow process,” she sympathises. “I talk about how delicious food is and always put olive oil, lemons and herbs on the table for them to add to their meal.”

And it’s a good idea to start them young. “Kids are mimics,” says restaurateur and author of Australian Food Bill Granger, “so they’ll do what you do.”

Darina Allen, who runs the renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland, puts toddlers on stirring duty. A messy strategy, yes, so gird yourself. Granger agrees: “They’ll make your life hard,” he says “but just involve them.”

Perhaps controversially, Allen then turns to knife skills: “Lots of parents wouldn’t be happy with this, but from three and a half to four years old they can hold a knife. It’s vital they’re shown how to use one safely, keeping the tips of the fingers tucked under the knuckles and, if they’re using the tip of the knife, to put the index finger along the back of the blade.”

Don’t be afraid to deploy underhand tactics, AKA bribery. Miers suggests banana and chocolate bread or fairy cakes to tempt five-year-olds into the kitchen: “They’re fun and sugary – you’ve got to get them that way.” Allen finds success in drop scones: “Children can put spoonfuls on to a frying pan, wait until the bubbles rise and burst, flip over with a palette knife and cook on the other side.” If enthusiasm wavers, baker Lily Jones, founder of east London’s Lily Vanilli, relinquishes control over decorating cupcakes or cookies: “Their enthusiasm can drop off a cliff abruptly, so I’m quick to do the boring parts.”

By the time they’re eight, Granger looks for dishes with a bit of a process: “Pizza dough is great: I use three cups of flour, a cup of water and a couple of teaspoons of yeast.” Kids can then go all-out on toppings. Try quick and easy dips, such as hummus, which children can cut celery and cucumber into sticks to dip in, or get the box grater out for vegetable fritters (Allen recommends carrot and spring onion). Miers says: “A cheese and herb omelette is also a good skill to have. Children can grate cheese and cut herbs (with scissors if their knife skills aren’t up to it).”

Come 12, Miers ups the ante with homemade pasta, while Granger makes life easier with a gnocchi bake, adding a simple tomato sauce (using passata) and mozzarella. Crumbles and traybakes (think flapjacks) are, of course, good for most ages, but Jones suggests adding basic icing techniques to their arsenal too: “Use a dessert spoon to scoop icing on to a cake or cupcake, then use the back of the spoon to create waves and spread on the icing.”

When they hit their teens, it’s time to experiment. “Find out what their favourite food is and get a cookbook,” Granger says, who then puts them to work cooking for friends. “After all, kids like showing off.”

Do you have a culinary dilemma? Email [email protected]


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My stepson saw an explicit video of his dad on my phone. What should I do? | Life and style

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My husband of 10 years used to travel a bit on business, and we would send each other explicit photos and videos of ourselves. I thought I had hidden all incriminating images in a protected folder on my phone, but, the other night, while I was randomly flicking through old family videos with my husband and 13-year-old stepson, up popped a video of my husband in all his glory, holding himself. There was stunned silence from the two of us, then panicked laughter, while my stepson looked at me with a bemused “busted!” expression. He still seems unconcerned about it, but both of us feel terrible. Should we have a conversation about it, wait to see if he acts any differently towards us, or trust our first instinct, which was to be a bit embarrassed and then pretend it never happened? We’re not a prudish household, but we figure that forcing him to talk could make this episode even weirder and more awkward than it already is. What should we do?

Our children pick up on our attitudes towards sex without any words being spoken. In fact, the most powerful learning they receive is the unspoken message. They easily absorb how each parent views sex, through our reactions when sexual content appears on TV, or the way we react when someone alludes to sex in conversation. Given that unspoken messages are the most powerful ways parents communicate ideas and feelings about sex, you have already let your stepson know everything he needs to understand about this. He is old enough to put it into context, and if he questions you in the future your job is to simply give a relaxed answer. You were right to normalise the accidental revelation, and there would be little point in returning to the subject.


  • Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a US-based psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders.

  • If you would like advice from Pamela on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns to [email protected] (please don’t send attachments). Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms.

  • Comments on this piece are premoderated to ensure discussion remains on topics raised by the writer. Please be aware there may be a short delay in comments appearing on the site.


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#EtimesSuaveMen: Five ways men can experiment with scarves

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Whether it is to protect yourself from the cold weather or you need a statement accessory, every man requires a scarf or two in his wardrobe. And, now as the winter season is approaching, it’s time to get creative with your scarf draping styles. Be it a casual or business look, learn stylish ways to wear a scarf. Here’s a look at five ways you can wear a scarf and beat the chill in style:

Casual
For a simple and casual look, you can pull off a laid-back style with your scarf. Wrap the scarf around your neck and pull out the ends and adjust at the same level. You can tuck it into your jacket or layer it on top of a fuzzy sweater.

casual scarf men

Smart Casual
If you’re not a fan of the ‘too casual look’, you can drape a scarf over the shoulder. Simply drape the scarf over the neck and keep one end longer than the other. This can help to add a touch of finesse to your casual look.

casual scarf

Formal
For a formal setting, it is important to drape the scarf with clean lines for a smart look. With a suit, you can try the ascot knot by draping the scarf around the shoulder and form a cross. Then, put one end under the other and pull it up to make a knot and tuck it in for a neat look.

Ascot knot

(How to tie an ascot knot, Photo: Blacklapel)


Business
For a business or official meeting, your scarf needs to look sophisticated and sharp. Ascot and loop knots can work well for a clean look. For the loop knot, fold the scarf in half and wrap it around your neck. Next, add the loose ends through the loop to make this knot.

loop knot

loop knot

(How to tie a loop knot, Photo: Blacklapel)


Evening
Whether you’re wearing a tuxedo or a suit, a stylish scarf can make a sartorial statement. It’s best to stick to fine fabrics like silk and cashmere with subtle patterns. You can wrap the scarf around the neck and tuck it behind the lapels of the jacket as shown in the photo.

scarf with suit


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