If you’re separated or divorced, but want your children to know they’re still a priority in both your lives, you’re going to want to get very familiar with the principles of co-parenting.

What is co-parenting? Co-parenting involves putting the wellbeing of your children first, ahead of any hurt feelings or disagreements you may have with your ex.

The goal is to show your kids they’re loved by BOTH parents, and to set up some co-parenting ground rules to help bring consistency and stability back into your children’s lives.

Successful co-parenting is definitely not an easy task, especially if you’re new to the idea.

Stress levels post break-up often run high, which can lead to some high-conflict situations. But this is when having a solid co-parenting plan in place is most important.


Research shows that children with parents who co-parent well following a separation grow up just as well as children with parents who had successful marriages.


Ask yourself this question, will my children gain anything if I allow my stress and negativity to trickle down into their lives? We’re pretty sure the answer is no.

You want your kids (and yourself) to stay positive and grow. Which is why, even though it’s hard, stepping outside of your own feelings and resentments to come to a co-parenting agreement with your ex matters so much to everyone involved.

If you can manage to work past your relationship issues to co-parent for the good of your kids, they’ll grow up healthier and happier as a result.


What Is Co-Parenting?

Co-parenting is a situation where a child’s parents are not in a marriage, cohabitation, or romantic relationship with one another. It usually describes a parenting scenario where two separated or divorced parents both take care of their children.

Co-parenting differs from single parenting, where one parent is completely out of the picture.

It also differs from parallel parenting where there are two parents involved, but due to a high-conflict situation each person parents separately.

With parallel parenting, communication and shared decision making are kept to a minimum to avoid unhealthy drama.


RELATED: Co-Parenting Tips That Work. Even On A Toxic Ex


If you really want to know what is co-parenting on a fundamental level; co-parents agree to put their own personal differences aside to come to some type of agreement about how to raise their children.

Co-parenting, at its best, is an opportunity for children of divorce to have close access to both parents and feel like it’s okay to love both parents.


“Outcomes for children of divorce improve when they have positive bonds with both parents. These include better psychological and behavioral adjustment, and enhanced academic performance.” – Dr. Joan Kelly


Effective ongoing communication with your ex is key to building a co-parenting plan that works. It also shows your kids that you and your former spouse are working together for their wellbeing.

To help you develop successful co-parenting strategies, we share a list of co-parenting do’s and don’ts gathered from psychologists.

Let this list guide you as you work towards hammering out a co-parenting agreement that works for your family.


what is co-parenting
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Co-Parenting Dos:


1. Communicate:

Do commit to keeping an open line of communication with your ex to ensure you both remain updated on important details about the kids.

If in-person communication is contentious, then consider using a co-parenting website like OurFamilyWizard that facilitates dialogue online or through an app.


2. Put Kids First:

Do take the high road and remember the only person you can control is you.

Agree to put your kids first. This way all interactions with your ex will stay positive and focus on what’s best for the wellbeing of your children.


3. Consistent Rules:

Do set consistent co-parenting rules that apply to BOTH households. Children need routine and structure, especially after the emotional turmoil of a divorce.

Things like bedtime, homework, chores, etc. should be consistently enforced in both homes.

You don’t want kids to think they can “get away” with something at one house, or make one parent look like the bad guy.


4. Set Boundaries:

Set boundaries with your ex to avoid falling back into the relationship pitfalls that lead to your divorce in the first place.

Keep all interactions professional and respectful.


5. Create A Plan:

Take the time to hammer out a co-parenting plan that meets the needs of your children. And put it in writing!

Figure out how to handle situations like medical issues, school, behavior problems, etc. so you can be prepared and ready to be there for your kids.


6. Agree To Keep It Clean:

In other words, no bad-mouthing the other parent in front of your kids.

Children learn how to manage their own adult relationships by watching you. So be sure you’re setting a good and respectful example.

Also, agree to prohibit your children from making disparaging remarks about their other parent.

If they do, correct them and let them know it’s not okay to talk about mom or dad like that.


7. Make A Schedule:

Negotiate and map out how you will handle visitation, holidays, school pick-up and drop-off, games, events, etc..

Put together a written co-parenting schedule you both have access to or use some type of calendar app.


8. Update Your Status:

You may not want to, but for the sake of your children it’s important that you and your ex keep each other apprised of major changes in each other’s life; like new relationships, jobs, living situations, etc.

It may be difficult, but it’s better if you’re the one that breaks the news directly.

Don’t force your kids to be intermediaries. Using children as go-betweens to deliver messages is extremely unhealthy and can cause kids to feel stress, fear, or even guilt.


RELATED: When You’re Co-Parenting With A Narcissist


Co-Parenting Don’ts:


1. Jump To Conclusions:

Don’t jump to conclusions or immediately assume the worst of your ex, even if your children tell you things that frustrate or anger you.

Take a deep breath and hold back any negative reaction in front of the kids.

Wait to talk about the situation with your ex and find out their side of the story.


2. Sabotage:

Don’t try to sabotage your child’s relationship with their other parent. Just don’t do it.

RELATED: When You’re Co-Parenting With A Narcissist


3. Force Sides:

Don’t force your kids to take sides in an argument you’re having with your ex.

Keep the kids out of it and let the grown-ups resolve any issues.


4. Transference:

Don’t transfer any negative feelings you have about your ex onto your children.

The reason your relationship didn’t work isn’t their fault, and they have enough trauma to deal with trying to adjust to a new two-family reality.

What they need from you is love and support, not bitter feelings about their other parent.


5. Manipulation:

Don’t use your kids as pawns to get back at your ex, or as tools to manipulate or get information from your ex.

This will only hurt your child and damage your relationship with them.


6. Overindulge:

Don’t fall into the trap of feeling so guilty about your separation that you give in to your kids demands for things like screen time, treats, or new toys.

This might make them feel better in the short term, but long term it’s boundaries, rules, and routines that make kids feel secure and cared for.


At the end of the day, what is co-parenting?  It’s doing whatever it takes to be sure your kids needs are met. 

Successful co-parenting is about working together to make good decisions for the welfare of your children.


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