What is co parenting?
Co-parenting or shared parenting is when divorced or separated parents work together to raise their children, instead of acting independently as parents. Co parenting requires collaboration and for parents to put aside their differences and to maintain open communication regarding important decisions in a child’s life. These can include where and how a child will live, where they will go to school, holiday plans, medical treatment, religious upbringing and much more.
Why is co parenting important?
Successful co parenting reduces a child’s stress and provides them with comfort and security so they can grow up in a safe and loving environment. A good relationship between parents can have a strong influence on the mental and emotional well-being of a child and reduce the incidence of anxiety and depression.
Studies have shown that uncooperative co-parenting styles can contribute to emotional and behavioural problems for children. These include anxiety, depression, aggression, and delinquency.
Co parenting also sets a healthy example to your children. Parents that continue to effectively co-parent establish healthy life patterns and skills that children will carry with them in both friendships and in future relationships.
What is the most effective communication style for co parenting?
From our experience parents almost always agree on one thing: they want the best for their child or children. Even if you and your ex ended on bad terms, it is important to remember that the other person is still the child’s parent.
Parents should be able to discuss matters about their children openly and with mutual respect, without concern of either one raising personal or past issues. When parents communicate effectively, resolving any conflicts becomes easier for all parties.
Here are our tips to help you successfully co-parent:
Park any hurt or anger
The child should be your priority, and this should be front of mind when you are making decisions that involve them. Successful co parenting means that any hurt, resentment, or anger must take a back seat to the needs of your children. Co parenting is not about your feelings or emotions, or those of your ex-spouse, but rather about your child’s happiness, stability, and future well-being.
Resolve to keep your emotional issues with your ex away from your children.
Aim to be flexible.
Flexibility benefits everyone. Being willing to adjust the parenting plan or make changes to accommodate each other’s schedules can help reduce conflict and maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship. Remember that important dates (birthdays, celebrations, sports days,) are special to you, your child, and the other parent and so flexibility will be required.
If you are flexible when your child’s other parent needs to change something, they might be more flexible when you need it.
Your plans will also need to adapt as your child grows up and their needs and circumstances change – for example, when they start school, take up a new sport or become more independent as they grow older.
Encourage your child to feel connected to their other parent.
Encourage your child to stay in touch with their other parent when they are with you. They could use phone calls, video calls, text messages, DMs, or email. This is especially important if your child’s other parent lives far away.
Let the child know that it is okay to display a family photo that includes your child’s other parent.
Do not interrogate the children.
When you question a child about their time with their other parent, it often makes them uncomfortable. When you ask questions about what they do, whom they saw, and where they went, you are putting your child into the role of a spy. It is even worse when you ask about your ex’s dating or social life.
Never use the children as messengers.
Keep your children out of the loop and do not ask them to become messengers. When you use your children to convey messages to your co-parent, it involves them in your conflict. The goal is to keep your child out of your relationship issues.
Instead find other ways to communicate, perhaps through text messages, email, or technology such as co-parenting plan apps.
Be prepared to compromise.
Consider each parent’s skills and strengths to divide tasks and decision making. For example, a parent who is an educator could have the veto say in where a child goes to school. A parent who is sporty could have a greater input in selecting extracurricular activities.
It may not always be your first choice, but compromise allows you to both “win” and makes both of you more likely to be flexible in the future.
If you disagree about important issues like a choice of school for your child keep the discussion going. But if you want your child in bed by 7:30 and your ex says 8:00, let it go and save your energy for the bigger issues.
Receive joint legal advice.
Joint divorce legal advice is guidance, support and advice on the law given by one person to a couple who want to resolve issues without conflict. The advice is given to the couple on a jointly beneficial basis to assist them to find the best way to resolve children and/or financial matters.
As specialists in divorce and family law with backgrounds as Solicitors, Mediators and Collaborative Lawyers we offer couples focused approached solutions and services to meet your objectives.
Try discussing options with the children.
Discussing options with the children in an age-appropriate way with the children is important. They may have ideas or suggestions that will help you and your ex-partner come to an agreeable, co parenting arrangement.
Have a monthly “parental team meeting.”
By having regular meetings, you can discuss the children’s needs and solve any problems that may have arisen early on. Keep the meeting limited to a maximum of 30 minutes and only focus on the issues concerning the children’s wellbeing and welfare.
Develop a co parenting plan.
Be organised. Co parenting plans are a useful way to organise care arrangements for your child, your parental responsibilities and the new relationship between you and your child’s other parent. The key thing is to ensure that your child can have safe and healthy relationships with both parents.
A co parenting plan should address:
- contact arrangements to include where the children will be staying at weekends and holidays, handovers, travel arrangements, and exceptions for special occasions.
- children’s medical needs or concerns
- guidelines for decision-making and dispute resolution.
- guidelines about communication. Should communication be by phone, or via email or text message?
- back-up arrangements in case your child needs to stay home from childcare or school. That might mean talking to the other parent about how they can help.
- The child’s education and school events
- Arrangements for special events such as birthdays’, Christmas, and Easter.
- Arrangements for reviewing the parenting plan at intervals as the child grows up.
Other helpful resources
A helpful video from Gingerbread called Child Contact Arrangements – Emma’s Story