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How to be a good co-parent when you work nontraditional hours

Co-parenting is often a delicate balance in the best of situations. However, when you work as a police officer, firefighter, nurse, doctor or journalist, it can get even trickier. Your hours are "odd," and they may also be unpredictable. Here are some ideas for co-parenting effectively when you find yourself in such a situation.

Provide as much consistency as possible

Your job may not allow for huge amounts of consistency like your ex's can, but you can still be consistent to an extent. For instance, perhaps you will always have one weekend a month off, no matter what, or you will usually call your child every night between 6 and 8. Phone calls, postal mail, gifts, extended visits and absolute times off are just a few of the areas in which you can be consistent; attending as many sports events and parent-teacher conferences as possible are other ways, and creativity helps. There is also internal consistency; that is, when your child is with you, he or she generally knows what to expect.

A parenting plan can provide the groundwork for consistency. When developing the plan, it is important that you and your co-parent work with someone who is open to learning about the requirements of your job.

Strive for teamwork

If at all possible, your co-parent should be fairly understanding of your situation. Otherwise, he or she could talk negatively about you in front of your child, and no one wants that. Keep your promises, and avoid making ones you might have to break. For instance, you should not say something such as, "It turns out I am on call next weekend, but I promise to get the weekend off anyway," if there is ev en a small chance you cannot get off work.

Teamwork is critical because it leads to flexibility. If you end up on call during a weekend when you have your child, a cooperative co-parent might agree to switch weekends so you have the child when you are not on call.

Provide quality experiences

Due to your job, the quantity of time with your child may be limited. The quality, however, need not be. Cooking dinner and even doing home repair projects together are great ways to maximize your time with your children. Be cautious of potential time wasters such as TV and cellphones. If an activity is engaging enough to your child, he or she will not be glued to the phone, anyway.

Not everyone is accepting of nontraditional hours. Consulting an attorney can give you a better understanding of your rights when it comes to child custody or visitation.

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