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Lost in a Co-Parenting Forest: A Compass for Parents

A healthy co-parenting relationship also involves being flexible and willing to compromise when necessary. It means acknowledging that both parents play a crucial role in their child's life and that their involvement is important for the child's development.

When a relationship comes to an end, it’s like the closing of a book, but if you have kids, it’s more like turning the page to a new chapter. And that chapter is co-parenting. Co-parenting involves parents working to raise their children together.  When both parents have a history of participation, this is simply a continuation of their former parenting style with new parameters.  For those parents without a history of equal decision making, it can bring a new level of conflict.  One parent may feel that their input is being ignored while the other sees this newfound interest in decision making as inauthentic, hasty, or merely an act to look better with friends, family, or the Judge.

Communication, cooperation, and consistency are the three C’s that form the foundation of any successful co-parenting relationship. These are essential in providing a stable and supportive environment for children post-divorce.

Communication is the foundation of co-parenting. Open, honest, and respectful dialogue ensures that both parents are on the same page regarding their children’s needs and schedules. This consistent and clear communication minimizes misunderstandings and fosters a collaborative atmosphere. Tools like co-parenting apps, emails, or even weekly catch-up calls can be used to facilitate communication.

Cooperation involves putting personal differences aside and finding common ground on important decisions related to your child’s upbringing. It also means that both parents are equally involved and have a say in the decisions that shape their children’s lives.

Consistency provides children with a stable and predictable environment, which is crucial for their emotional development. It means having similar rules, routines, and values in both households. This creates a sense of security and helps children adjust more easily to the changes in their family dynamic.  Without consistency, co-parenting can become an exercise in pointlessness.  We all remember those friends from high school that could get anything out of that one parent – making the authority of the other parent irrelevant and ineffective.  Consistency shows a united front and stability for your children. 

Benefits of Successful Co-Parenting

Successful co-parenting is beneficial not only for the children but also for the parents. A balanced co-parenting relationship provides children with a stable and supportive environment, necessary for their emotional and psychological development. Seeing their parents work together positively impacts children, making them feel loved and secure.

For the parents, successful co-parenting can reduce stress and conflict, leading to a more amicable relationship. This relationship can make transitions between homes smoother and overall family dynamics healthier. Successful co-parenting can also assist in better decision-making, as both parents are actively involved in their children’s lives and can provide valuable input.

Successful co-parenting serves as a model for healthy relationships for your children. They learn the importance of communication, cooperation, and compromise in any relationship. These valuable life lessons will serve them well in their own relationships in the future.

How Can I Be a Good Co-Parent?

Co-parenting is a collaborative effort between parents to raise their children together, despite no longer being romantically involved. It involves sharing the responsibilities of raising your children and making joint decisions regarding their well-being.

Co-parenting consists of coordinating schedules, sharing financial responsibilities, and making important decisions together, such as those related to education, health, and other significant aspects of your children’s lives. It requires active involvement from both parents and a commitment to work together for the benefit of the children.

In addition to these practical aspects, co-parenting involves fostering a positive relationship between the children and both parents. This means encouraging your children to have a healthy relationship with your ex-partner and ensuring that they have ample time and opportunity to build and maintain these relationships. 

This is crucial because it provides children with a sense of stability and support during what can be a challenging time. A positive co-parenting relationship shows children that, despite the divorce, both parents are still committed to their well-being and are willing to work together to ensure they have everything they need to thrive.  It can help reduce the emotional stress that children may experience during and after a divorce. When children have the support of both parents, they are more likely to adjust well to the changes in their family dynamic and develop a healthy coping mechanism for dealing with stress and challenges in the future.

Professional Tip: Being a good co-parent means using inclusive language.  Referring to your children as “yours” instead of “ours” when talking to your co-parent indicates to your ex-partner and you do not perceive them as part of the family equation.  Likewise, it shows your children that you do not see their other parent as an equal decision maker.

Is It Good for Divorced Parents to Do Things Together With Their Kids?

The question of whether divorced parents should do things together with their children is a common one, and the answer largely depends on the individual circumstances and dynamics of each family. However, there are both benefits and potential pitfalls to consider.

When divorced parents come together for their children’s events or activities, it sends a strong message to the children that, despite the changes in the family structure, both parents remain committed to supporting and loving them. This can provide children with a sense of security and stability, which is crucial during the transitional period following a divorce.

Family activities, such as holiday celebrations, birthday parties, or school events, can be an excellent opportunity for children to experience positive interactions between their parents. Seeing their parents communicate and cooperate can help children adjust to the new family dynamic more easily. Additionally, shared experiences can create happy memories that can further strengthen the bond between parents and children.

However, joint attendance at events should never negatively affect the child’s experiences.  If the relationship between the divorced parents is strained or contentious, doing things together can lead to conflict and stress. This tension can be detrimental to the children’s emotional well-being, as they may feel caught in the middle or responsible for their parents’ unhappiness.

If parents are unable to come together without a cloud of negativity, they should instead work together to find ways to attend without interaction.  Alternatively, some parents may wish to calendar events separately to avoid any interaction with the other.  This is not necessarily a negative experience for your children – spending time with each parent separately in different interests or hobbies allows children to develop individual relationships with each parent, providing a sense of connection and independence.  You may find yourself being the “swim team mom” or the “soccer dad”, developing a deeper bond with your children by engaging in an activity that is just for the two of you. 

Setting Boundaries While Co-Parenting

Establishing clear and healthy boundaries is essential for successful co-parenting. By setting boundaries, parents can create a structured environment that helps minimize conflict, support open communication, and foster a positive relationship between both parents and children.

One of the first boundaries to set is communication. Decide on the best method of communication that works for both parents, whether it’s texting, emailing, or phone calls. Establishing a consistent mode of communication can help avoid misunderstandings and keep both parents informed about their child’s life. It’s also essential to keep communication respectful and focused on the children’s needs.

Another important boundary is decision-making. Parents should clearly outline how decisions will be made regarding their children’s education, health, and other important aspects of their lives. This could include regular meetings to discuss major decisions or a system where each parent has the final say in specific areas. Setting this boundary helps prevent disagreements and ensures that both parents have an active role in their child’s upbringing.

Scheduling and time-sharing is a critical boundary to establish. Parents should work together to create a schedule that works for the whole family and ensures that the children have quality time with both parents. This can include holidays, weekends, and other special occasions. Be sure to consider the children’s needs and preferences when creating the schedule.

Financial responsibilities should also be clearly defined. Parents need to agree on how they will share the costs associated with raising their children, including education, healthcare, and extracurricular activities. This can help prevent disagreements and ensure that both parents are contributing to their child’s well-being.

Boundaries are also necessary when it comes to new relationships. Both parents should agree on when and how new partners will be introduced to the children. This can help ensure that the children feel comfortable and supported as they adjust to new family dynamics.

Finally, it’s important to establish boundaries for conflict resolution. Parents should agree on how they will handle disagreements and conflicts that arise during co-parenting. This could include using mediation, counseling, or other conflict resolution strategies.

It’s essential to remember that boundaries are not set in stone and may need to be adjusted as the family’s needs change over time. Regular communication and flexibility are key to maintaining healthy boundaries and a successful co-parenting relationship.

Establishing and respecting boundaries brings healthy co-parenting relationships.  These are characterized by mutual respect, open communication, and a commitment to work together for the benefit of your children. It means putting your children’s needs first and finding ways to collaborate and support each other as parents.

A healthy co-parenting relationship also involves being flexible and willing to compromise when necessary. It means acknowledging that both parents play a crucial role in their child’s life and that their involvement is important for the child’s development.


Co-parenting is challenging, but with open communication, cooperation, and consistency, it is possible to build a successful co-parenting relationship. Remember every family is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Find what works best for you and your family, and don’t be afraid to seek support from your community, learn more through Divorce 101, or get some personalized guidance from a divorce life coach.

It can be tricky, but with the right tools and support, you can create a happy and supportive environment for your children. After all, at the end of the day, it’s all about giving your kids the love and support they need to thrive.

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