This co-parenting guide offers separated and divorced parents solutions for optimal cooperative care of their children. Co-parenting is when parents set their differences aside and work together as a team to raise a child after their divorce or separation. It includes sharing parental responsibilities and making joint decisions that affect the emotional and developmental needs of a child in everyday life.
Partner With Your Co-Parent
The thought of having a partnership with your ex may not be the first thing that comes to mind after separation or divorce, but, if you can keep an open mind, you will be exposed to a new way of thinking, one that alleviates stress, invites peace and one that puts your children first.
You likely interact with a wide variety of people in your day-to-day life. Whether you’re in an environment with business colleagues, teammates in sports, or interacting with teachers at your children’s school, there are always bound to be challenges working with the people involved. People have different experiences, ideas, trains of thought, perspectives, skills, morals, and values; however, this isn’t necessarily an obstacle, it can also be a GREAT thing. By having diversity, combined with effective communication and agreements, you can reach better, more creative outcomes than if you were to only work with those who had the same beliefs and thought processes as you.
Working Together as a Team
When people who share similar goals work together on projects or tasks, they tend to work together as a team to accomplish them. They know they must collaborate and get through any and all barriers in order to reach their mutual goal. To do this, there must be trust, respect, good communication, and some type of structure or planning. Successful teams know that ‘two heads are better than one’; they know that as a team, they are capable of completing projects and difficult tasks, efficiently, effectively and collaboratively with the combined efforts of everyone involved.
Now, let’s apply this to a parenting partnership. You and your child’s other parent have a shared vision and shared goals. No one loves your child more than the two of you, and you both want the best for your child. You want your child to grow up happy and healthy, led down the right path. By partnering with your child’s other parent, you can work together as a team in order to reach these goals.
Let’s revisit the team example we discussed earlier. Imagine you are participating in a team project. This team project has specific requirements and many components that need to be delivered in order to complete the project with a favorable outcome. If your group attempts to work independently without communicating, teamwork, and without sharing thoughts and ideas to complete the project, your finished product will be lacking in some way; that is, if you have a finished product at all.
Similarly, if a group of chemists is working on an experiment where it is crucial to add each ingredient in a particular order, and there is a breakdown in communication, the effects could be catastrophic. The chemists need to work together — agree to roles and responsibilities, and be sure to update the team on the progress to ensure the steps are carried out accurately, and to ensure the safety and health of all involved — and to ensure a successful outcome. Mistakes can be avoided if the chemists remember that they are working toward the same goal and that it will take all of them, working together and communicating, to be successful in reaching their mutual goal.
You can likely see how this example could apply to raise children. When parents don’t work together, and don’t communicate, there are a lot of misunderstandings and unnecessary arguments, as well as a never-ending pattern of blaming the other for anything that goes wrong or for any negative behavior exhibited by their child. Conversely, if parents can agree that they are working toward a common goal, and can acknowledge that they both only want the best for their child, they are already on their way to forming a successful co-parenting partnership. By working together and keeping an open line of communication, not only can you avoid a lot of misunderstandings, but you are setting your child up for the best possible childhood and best possible outcome.
As time goes on, and you grow in your co-parenting partnership, you may find other ways to work together, such as having similar rules in both homes and working together to plan birthday gifts to avoid duplication or to get a gift you may not otherwise be able to afford separately. Another important area will be collaborating on disciplinary actions. Discipline is best served when it is given immediately after the negative behavior, so it would be helpful for parents to work together transferring discipline from one house to the other when needed. This will be particularly helpful when a child is attempting to test the boundaries and take advantage of having two homes.
Really, the possibilities are limitless, as are the benefits. Remember that no two couples are exactly alike. You will find out what works best for you and your family.
Through co-parenting, a child’s parents seek to maintain an amicable relationship and share parental responsibilities or some amount of shared responsibility to benefit the child’s upbringing.
A principle of co-parenting is that a child has the right to maintain a stable relationship with both parents, even if they are separated or divorced unless there is a recognized need to separate the child from one or both parents.
Such a right is based on the concept that to be a parent is a commitment that an adult takes with respect to his/her children — not to the other parent. Hence, that right cannot and must not be influenced by any kind of separation among parents.
By its very nature, co-parenting opposes the granting of child custody of exclusively to a single parent. Instead, co-parenting promote shared parenting as a protection of the right of children to continue to receive care and love from both parents.
It is possible for parents to work together, even under strained circumstances, when they cooperate for the benefit of their children.
The Co-Parenting Commitment
Divorce and separation are never easy. Luckily for adults, we have formed coping skills. Unfortunately for children, most have yet to begin developing these skills and suffer from the loss, pain, and confusion of the separation. Why make it any tougher on them?
Co-Parenting Specialists are trained, licensed mental health professionals who help parents support the well-being of their children who are being raised in dual households.
Co-Parenting Specialists understand the challenges of rearing children in two households and work with their parents to minimize disruptions.
The Co-Parenting Specialists are both educators and therapists. Their work focuses specifically on the co-parenting relationship of the former partners and on the parent-child relationship.
What Does a Co-parenting Specialist Do?
- Improves communication between parents
- Facilitates parenting agreements.
- Facilitated resolution of disputes.
- Fosters acceptance of differences between parents.
- Assists parents in creating and maintaining an acceptable parenting plan.
- Helps parents to adjust the parenting plan to best meet the developmental needs of the children.
- Facilitates healthy relationships within the family.
Who Will Benefit from Co-Parent Coaching?
- Parents who are in the process of establishing dual households.
- Parents who need to adjust the parenting plan to meet the developmental needs of their children.
- Parents who wish to establish a more harmonious co-parenting relationship.
- Parents who are introducing new partners into their relationship.
- Parents who have concerns about their children’s adjustment to the parenting plan.