When couples go through a separation or divorce, it’s common to fixate on assigning blame and dividing possessions. And only after the dust settles that they realise they have neglected their children. Kids usually struggle the most with the breakup, facing immense challenges to accept the new setup. Help ease their transition to a new family structure with a co-parenting relationship.
What Is Co-parenting?
Co-parenting refers to the shared responsibility of raising children after a breakup. Instead of resorting to legal battles over custody, parents collaborate to prioritise their child’s wellbeing. This approach includes making joint decisions about their education, extracurricular activities, holidays, and healthcare.
Why is co-parenting so difficult? This dual custody typically requires parents to set aside personal feelings and provide their child with love and care. It entails disregarding your needs and wants for your child’s needs and wants.
3 Types of Co-parenting
A study published in Linacre Quarterly emphasises that children of divorce are at a higher risk of developing anxiety and depression. They also tend to perform lower in the academic setting compared to peers. The style of co-parenting they experience can either mitigate or exacerbate these effects.
- Parallel co-parenting: This is the most common type of child-rearing. In this setup, parents avoid arguments and have minimal communication. While this approach provides consistency for kids, the lack of collaboration between parents can cause more problems.
- Cooperative co-parenting: This style is the healthiest standard for raising kids during a separation. Here, parents plan and coordinate their kids’ lives, providing support and avoiding conflicts. This approach allows children to comprehend and recover from the breakup as they receive consistent care and understanding from both parents.
- Conflicted co-parenting: This approach involves constant fighting, lack of cooperation, and poor interactions between ex-partners. This type of toxic parenting is harmful to children and can affect their well-being.
The Benefits of Positive Co-Parenting
Getting into a shared-custody arrangement might seem strange at first. But remember that you’re doing this for your child. Here are some benefits all parties can eventually enjoy:
- You share responsibility with someone else; you don’t have to do everything alone.
- Both parents maintain a positive relationship with the child.
- You ensure constant and open communication with your co-parent and your child.
- The child will grow up in a secure and positive environment.
Tips for Practising Healthy Co-Parenting
There is no step-by-step guide on how to co-parent perfectly. But there are indicators you can use to assess the health of your parenting relationship.
1. Kids always come first.
An indicator of a healthy co-parenting relationship is when parents prioritise their children’s needs above all else. Even with shared responsibilities, former partners can designate a main caregiver who takes charge of the child’s daily life and appointments. The primary parent ensures open communication or utilises shared calendars to keep the other parent informed and involved.
Consulting with the other parent is crucial when making decisions about medical and dental concerns for the children. These decisions may involve matters like wearing glasses or using ClearCorrect aligners to treat misaligned teeth.
2. Parties set clear boundaries.
Establishing clear boundaries is essential for effective co-parenting. It involves recognising the aspects you have control over and those that you don’t. For example, you cannot dictate who your former partner can date. And unless it’s written in the custody agreement, you cannot control whether they decide to introduce your children to that person.
3. Everyone follows a predetermined schedule.
Parenting time handovers are more manageable with predetermined routines. Instead of settling for a nonchalant “we’ll see” response, having clear schedules ensures smoother transitions. When there is effective communication, co-parents can rely on each other to honour their commitments unless an extraordinary circumstance arises.
4. There is room for flexibility.
Although keeping a routine is essential, there should also be room for unplanned things. Whether it’s an impromptu visit from out-of-town relatives or a last-minute appointment, having some flexibility is healthy for the kids. It shows that everyone involved is accommodating, understanding, and willing to compromise.
5. Parents can attend events tension-free.
Many children expect both parents to attend school meetings, recitals, sporting events, and graduations. Having both parents show up and enthusiastically support their children points to an effective co-parenting relationship. This level of involvement demonstrates a unified front and a commitment to the child’s well-being.
Matters to Discuss When Co-Parenting
When the only solution to marital problems is to part ways, couples must discuss the following:
- Schedules: Discuss the custody schedule to determine who has the kids and when. Clarify responsibilities for doctor’s checkups and dentist appointments to ensure the child doesn’t miss important commitments. It’s crucial to prioritise kids’ engagements and activities.
- Communication: You don’t need to provide a detailed daily report to your former partner, but it’s worth keeping them informed on significant matters. For example, if a child is having trouble in the classroom or is displaying challenging behaviour, discuss the issue with your co-parent.
- Finances: Create a parenting plan outlining the support agreement. Essential elements to include are the cost of education, fees for extracurricular activities, healthcare, and insurance coverage.
Co-parenting demands compromise, even when former partners don’t see eye-to-eye on every decision. Use this quick guide to help foster a healthy joint parenting relationship with your ex. Together, you can still create a nurturing environment for your children’s growth and happiness.
Anderson, J. E. (2014). The Impact of Family Structure on the Health of Children: Effects of Divorce. The Linacre Quarterly, 81(4), 378–387.