Successful Co-Parenting Dos and Don’ts

Successful Co-Parenting Dos and Don’ts

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Co-parenting, sometimes called joint or shared parenting, is raising children as single parents after a divorce or separation. This is often an extremely difficult process, as it can be a challenge for divorced spouses to civilly interact with each other. But if you are parenting in a healthier way than your ex, or vice versa, your children are at risk for developmental and behavioral problems. Successful co-parenting necessitates empathy, patience and open communication.

We know this doesn’t sound easy, so here are some “dos and don’ts” you should abide by to make co-parenting a more positive experience:

Dos:

Commit to open-communication

This can be through email, texting, voicemail, letters or face-to-face conversation, it just needs to be open and honest. You could even use a website or application to upload schedules, share information and communicate so you don’t have to directly interact.

Keep consistent rules

Children need structure. The rules regarding meal time, bed time and chores need to be consistent in both households. The same goes for homework and any school projects. Keep your schedule strict if you want to create a sense of security and predictability for your children. This way it doesn’t matter which house your child is living in, because they know certain rules will be enforced.

Avoid negative talk

No matter how difficult it is, avoid talking disrespectfully about your ex. This will set an example for your children. If you do hear them speaking discourteously, make sure to discourage it immediately and let them know that it’s not okay.

Set boundaries and behavioral guidelines

This will also create consistency while raising your children. One parent shouldn’t allow certain behaviors while the other doesn’t. Research has proven that children in homes with a unified parenting approach have a better sense of overall well-being.

Keep each other updated

Even if you don’t want to, it’s important to keep your ex notified about changes in your life or difficult circumstances that come up. Your child should never be the primary source of information when something is going on, so don’t put them in this role at any time.

Recognize each other’s good traits

Each of you has different, valuable strengths as a parent. Bring these up to your children. Maybe dad is better at cooking than mom, or mom is better at taking care of illnesses. Whatever the strength is, make sure to mention it so your kids know you respect each other.

Don’ts:

Never burden your child

Leave emotionally charged issues about you and your ex out of parenting at all times. Never, ever trash talk to sabotage your child’s relationship with your ex. Never use your child to gain information about your ex or sway them on an issue. The point is, you shouldn’t expose your children to this type of adult conflict. Putting kids in the middle of adult issues will promote helpless, insecure feelings, leading children to question their own abilities.

Don’t condemn your ex

If you hear things from your children that make you frustrated, take a breath and stay quiet. Any negative comments kids make should always be taken with a grain of salt. Remain neutral when you hear them talk negatively about your ex. It has been shown that resentment and distrust can form later on in life if you encourage their negativity.

Don’t be unbalanced

Resist being a “fun” or “cool” parent when your children are with you. This will backfire once they return to your ex and probably create a cycle of resentment, hostility and reluctance to follow rules. Children develop best when co-parenting is united, structured and predictable.

Don’t give into guilty

Divorce is painful and guilt is one of the many associated emotions. Not being in your child’s life all the time might make you feel guilty, and that guilt can turn into overindulgence. Understand that you shouldn’t grant wishes without limits, as this can create self-centered, apathetic children. It can also develop confusion when it comes to understanding the dynamics of need versus want.

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