Co-parenting 101

Co-parenting 101

Co-parenting after a split is one of the most challenging aspects of divorce. Getting past the anger, resentment, or painful history you may have with your ex and moving on with your life may already feel like a monumental task. But putting aside personal issues is crucial to being able to co-parent your children.

What is co-parenting?

Put simply, co-parenting, also called joint parenting or shared parenting, is cooperatively raising your children with the other parent after separation or divorce has occurred. Even while separation inevitably changes the way families work, parents who are committed to co-parenting with empathy and positivity can still be a source of stability and comfort for their children.

Will it be easy? Perhaps not. It will require cooperation, flexibility, and patience from both parents. But it is possible when both parents make the needs and the wellbeing of their children – not their personal differences – their focus.

How do we make co-parenting work?

Aside from the obvious requirements like commitment and determination, there are many things to consider to make co-parenting a success.

Start with a plan

Your co-parenting experience and outcome will be more positive if you being with a co-parenting plan. The co-parenting plan – also known as a parenting agreement – is a written document that spells out how you and the other parent will raise your children after separation or divorce.

The co-parenting plan should detail, among other things, how much time/when children will spend time with each parent, how decisions about the children will be made, how ongoing communication about the children will take place, and how parental disagreements will be

Your co-parenting plan will likely be highly structured at the beginning. However, the plan will likely require reevaluation as your children’s needs or the parents’ circumstances change over the years. Your attorney can walk you through the drafting of – and future revisions to – this very important document.

Keep your feelings out of it

In her article “Five Tips for Successful Co-parenting,” Leah Klungness, PhD, says to “keep your feelings about the ‘other parent’ out of your kids’ heads and hearts. It’s expected that both of you will continue to grapple with feelings of betrayal, anger or abandonment. But behaving in ways that show your kids your ‘true’ feelings about the other parent will guarantee co-parenting failure.”

This doesn’t mean that your feelings aren’t important. If you need to vent, reach out to a friend, family member, or therapist. Venting to or in front of your kids will only add to their post-divorce stress.

Use the carrot, not the stick

Klungness goes on to say that maintaining respect for the other parent plays a big role in co-parenting. She says “the ability to praise, respect and express appreciation for the other parent characterizes all successful co-parenting relationships. Sometimes a bit of encouragement creates needed positive change. After all, the carrot always works better than the stick.”

Communicate like a co-worker

In all your communications with your co-parent, resolve to conduct yourself with dignity. Effective, conflict-free communication is the goal. So, if talking on the phone with your ex always ends in an argument, use emails or text messages for most conversations, and keep the focal point on the children.

Use a cordial, business-like tone in your messages that reflects neutrality and respect. Consider scheduling a weekly status meeting, or sending weekly status updates about your children’s activities or important events.

Keep “the main thing” the main thing

And the wellbeing of your children is the main thing.

In his article “What Makes for Successful Co-parenting After Divorce,” Edward Kruk, PhD, says,

“…The two most important factors in children’s successful adjustment to the consequences of divorce are the maintenance of a meaningful routine relationship with each of their parents, and to be shielded from ongoing parental conflict. The challenge for parents is to develop and maintain a co-parenting relationship that ensures that both of these essential needs are met.”

Co-parenting has its challenges. But when it’s done right, the result is happier, better adjusted children. Let the legal team at Christine M. Howard help you come up with a compassionate co-parenting plan that suits your unique family situation.