Co-Parenting Done Right:
What Makes Good Co-Parenting?
Establishing a healthy co-parenting relationship is not a magical process but one that is very deliberate and requires a commitment of time and effort. There are very specific steps that need to be taken to create a positive co-parenting relationship and for co-parenting to be done right. Failing to take these steps will inevitably result in a bad co-parenting relationship that will take a negative toll on every member of your newly configured family for many years to come.
Co-Parenting Done Right: Essential Guide
What follows is an essential guide for how to establish a good co-parenting relationship and implement effective co-parenting strategies. These guidelines are research-based and informed by my many years of clinical experience with divorcing families with children. Divorce done well has the potential to create a positive and harmonious co-parenting environment. This guide will provide you with the framework to help make that goal a reality.
Effective Co-Parenting Strategies
The following 13 effective co-parenting strategies will be based on the principle of being CHILDCENTERED which will hopefully help you remember each of them. They will guide you in engaging in positive co-parenting and in establishing and maintaining a healthy co-parenting relationship.
C: Custody arrangements and parenting plans should be based upon what is in the best interest of your children, not on your emotional need to take the children away from your former partner. Shared parenting, whenever possible, is in the best interest of your children.
H: Have set boundaries around a variety of issues including parenting time, communication methods and frequency, parenting styles, child rearing, and how you manage conflict.
I: Invest in your relationships with children and always make them your priority. Spend quality time with them during your parenting time and support their time with their other parent.
L: Leave children out of the middle of your issues. Children feeling caught between their divorced parents is emotionally damaging and needs to be avoided whenever possible.
D: Do not speak negatively about your former spouse in front of your children. This will put them in the middle, cause them to feel like they need to take sides, and often result in anger toward you for badmouthing their other parent who they also love.
C: Communicate effectively in your parenting relationship. This effective co-parenting strategy involves keeping your emotions in check so things don’t escalate, focusing on your shared goal which is successfully raising your children, and communicating professionally and refraining from inappropriate language or behavior.
E: Engage your co-parent as a business partner and stay focused on the business at hand which is successfully co-parenting your children. This will enable you to present a united front based upon your shared desire to have a good co-parenting relationship for the sake of your children.
N: Never use children as messengers or ask them to keep secrets for you. Effective co-parents need to develop ways for all parenting communication to be done directly with each other and to avoid putting the children in the position of doing it for them.
T: Tell children it is okay to love and have a relationship with both parents. Positive co-parenting requires that each parent explicitly give their children “permission” to have a good relationship with their other parent. This helps to reduce the loyalty conflicts that they often experience and to help them not feel guilty for enjoying their time with each of you.
E: Expect your former spouse to be the same person they were before you separated. Your parenting relationship is going to be fraught with many of the same issues that you struggled with when you were together. Therefore, it is important to have reasonable expectations regarding who they are and the conflicts that are going to arise. Bad co-parenting will continue to repeat the old patterns, while co-parenting done right will shift the focus to the children and their needs.
R: Refrain from conflict in front of the children. The single greatest predictor of how your children will fare post-divorce is the level of conflict that they witness between their parents. Avoid arguing in front of the children, particularly during periods of transition between homes. Those times are stressful enough and adding parental conflict will result in it being unbearable for the children to tolerate.
E: Elevate your parenting beyond your former spouse’s bad behavior. It is important to accept that you can’t sit around waiting for your former partner to change their behavior or blame them totally for your bad co-parenting relationship. You can then focus on the things that are within your power to change which will lay the groundwork for a more positive co-parenting relationship with your former spouse.
D: Develop ways of managing your emotions. Painful emotions are an entirely normal part of any relationship ending. However, if you don’t deal with them, they have the potential to derail not only your co-parenting relationship but your children’s lives as well. You must take the necessary steps to work through these emotions, either on your own or with the help of a family therapist, and rise above them for the sake of your children.
These strategies, communication tips, and expert advice for creating a positive and harmonious co-parenting environment are the product of Dr. Erica Ellis’ 30 years of clinical experience as a licensed psychologist and co-parenting expert. Two Healthy Homes offers many additional tools and resources to help you develop a healthy co-parenting relationship and effective co-parenting strategies.