What is co-parenting and how do you go about managing it successfully? Whether you’re single parents who are separated, divorced, or want to raise a child outside of a traditional parenting arrangement, you might be looking for ways to share parenting responsibilities. That’s where co-parenting comes in—everything you do towards making it work will help your child’s wellbeing now and in the future.
Our straightforward tips for an easy co-parenting partnership
1. Our co-parenting definition
Co-parenting is typically defined as when divorced or separated parents share equal care and custody of their child/ren. The definition can also include different types of parenting arrangements and family structures—such as elective co-parents or when someone relies on their own parents for help. Co-parenting arrangements may not always be equal, but the common theme is that co-parents focus on the wellbeing of the child and strive to be low-conflict and co-operative.
2. Putting your child first
When it comes to essential co-parenting tips, recognising your child’s right to have a relationship with both (or more) parents—no matter your feelings about your co-parent—comes first. Remembering this can defuse tensions and avoid disagreements, as well as help combined decision-making and problem-solving. Whether it’s planning how many nights your child spends with each caregiver, deciding if it’s best for your child to have one, or more homes, or choosing daycare or schools.
3. Co-operation is key
Co-parenting is a type of relationship where you need to work as a team and co-operate as much as possible with each other. This might be easier if you are co-parents by choice and negotiated much of your co-parenting plan before your baby was born or conceived. On the other hand, it might be challenging if, for example, you’re going through a separation or divorce, have recently done so, or if there are issues with a co-parent’s new partner.
Hard as it may be, try to put personal differences aside and focus on the objective: your child’s wellbeing.
4. Aim for consistency
Children thrive on routine and consistency, so do your best to provide that while accepting there will be variations between different homes and parents. Following similar schedules and approaches to parenting will help your child to feel secure whichever parent they are with.
Likewise, if you’re consistent in your co-operation, communication, and compassion as co-parents, you’ll be modelling important lessons for your child when it comes to dealing with challenging situations and people in their lives. You’ll also be showing them that it’s possible to experience a loving family with parents who live their lives separately.
5. Prioritise good organisation and communication
You’ll of course want to know what’s been happening with your child when you’re not with them. You can find ways to make communication and organization as smooth and easy as possible. If you don’t want to juggle email, texts, messaging and calendars, a good co-parenting app might help. Many combine functions like a shared family calendar, to-do lists, expenses tally, and notes.
You’ll also need to decide how your child communicates with the other parent(s) when your child is with you. Try to allow phone calls and messaging at reasonable times and within fair boundaries and time limits.
6. Be prepared to compromise
Compromise is important in any successful relationships, none less so than a co-parenting one. Just as if you were practicing equally shared parenting in the same household, you’ll need to accept that there will be differences in your individual parenting style. As long as you’re largely consistent in your approach, your child should fall into the different routines easily.
Remember too, that your individual and family needs may change from time to time. So, whatever your co-parenting plan, try not to let it be too rigid, and be prepared to tweak it sometimes.
7. If you can, plan for some together-time
If you have a friendly relationship with your co-parent, you might want to schedule in a regular shared meal or family outing, or some shared time together during festive periods and important events. Doing this might strengthen your relationship, as well as provide your child with happy memories. It also means that you’ll all be able to enjoy family moments at the same time.
8. Struggling to make it work?
Try co-parenting counselling Remember, your mental wellbeing is a priority for you and your child, and learning how to co-parent may take time and support. There are many healthcare professionals who specialise in helping people negotiate co-parenting, often acting as therapist, parenting coach, and mediator in one.
Having a neutral space and an impartial co-parenting therapist to help you navigate your roles as co-parents and resolve any potential disagreements may prove invaluable in dealing with difficult emotions or considering approaches you may not have come up with alone.