What Makes a Successful Co-parenting Relationship?

Successful co-parenting requires child-centered decision making.  

You must put your issues with your ex-spouse aside and do what is necessary to make good joint decisions on behalf of your child. Successful co-parents have their child at the center of  their conversations. The child is their focus, This means that during the conversations you can’t you cannot have negative thoughts about your ex-spouse or  be silently seething over the fact that his/her parenting style is so much different (and in your opinion worse) than your own. Even though you are no longer living together, you must continue to work together as a team  to make decisions with respect to the child.

Reasons Why Co-Parenting May Be Unsuccessful

  1. Undermining the other parent -.  A parent can undermine the other parent by making statements such as  “I am sorry mommy/daddy did this to you, it must be very upsetting.” or “I am sorry mommy/daddy yelled at you, I am sure that was really upsetting, I would never do that to you”. “I am sorry mommy/daddy doesn’t spend more time with you, I know that must be hurtful, but I am always here for you.” When a parent undermines the authority of the other parent, it can make co-parenting difficult. .  If a child witnesses one parent being disrespectful to the other parent, the child may believe it is ok for him or her to be disrespectful to the other parent as well, which further undermines that parent’s authority over the child.  
  2. Poor Communication— If you are busy making personal jabs, making accusations, or bringing up the past, it will be difficult if not impossible to have reasonable meaningful conversations and make joint decisions about your child.  
  3. Using  the Child as a Pawn— When a parent is more concerned about using the child as a pawn in an attempt to hurt and inflict emotional pain on the other parent,  it can be difficult if not impossible to co-parent.  

Successful Co-Parenting Tips 

Here are three tips for positive coparenting.

  1. Set hurt, anger, frustration, and other negative feelings about your ex-spouse aside–  You need to find a healthy way to deal with and resolve those feelings, but it should never involve your child.  Remember, your issues with your ex-spouse are your issues not your child’s. Speaking negatively about your ex-spouse to your child or within hearing of your child can be emotionally detrimental to them because a child often views himself/herself as a combination of their parents. When you speak negatively about your ex-spouse to them or in front of them, they may view you as also speaking negatively about them.  
  2. Keep the conversations positive and focused on the child- Keep conversations businesslike, professional and positive—no personal jabs, accusations or bringing up the past.  Make requests, not demands.  Make sure you listen as well as talk.  You both should be able to express opinions without feeling you will be verbally attacked. Most importantly, be flexible.
  3. Co-parent as a team– you do not have to like one another to be able to successfully coparent as a team—you just need to love your child more than you dislike your ex-spouse.  It is ok for parents to have different parenting styles and for children to understand that their parents may have different views on things and to learn to be flexible.  However, children also need to know they are living under the same basic set of expectations whether they are at mom’s house or dad’s house. A consistent set of rules will avoid confusion for your child. Children learn quickly how to play one parent against the other if rules in the homes vary greatly.  This can end up causing even more animosity between parents.  Your child is not part of the coparenting team.  Do not involve them in your coparenting decisions. Do not discuss parenting issues with them, and don’t ask their opinion about how certain issues might be handled.  It is important for the child to see their parents as a united team. 

Raising children is never easy. 

All good parents want to help their children succeed in life. Following these co-parenting tips will go a long way in assuring that you and your ex raise happy, healthy children.  

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