Co-Parenting Rulebook
By: Jasleen
April 25, 2018

Wishing there was a Co-Parenting Rulebook?  Parenting alone is hard enough, but parents who are no longer together can opt to continue to work together in order to best serve the needs of their children. Choosing to co-parent after the close of an intimate relationship can be challenging, however, the benefits of choosing to do so far outweigh the cons. Having some guidelines, or a rulebook, can help you navigate these murky waters.

The Cons:

  • You have to maintain a relationship with your ex even if it ended on bad terms.
  • Resentment and negative feelings towards your ex can make co-parenting extremely difficult.
  • You have to learn to communicate with your ex even if lack of communication was the reason you two broke up in the first place.
  • You will have to make a lot of compromises.

The Benefits:

Remember, the co-parent is going to be the parent of your children for the rest of their lives. Figuring out the best way to co-exist with them will benefit not only you but your children.

  • A divorce or separation can be difficult enough for children to adjust to. Having parents who continue to co-parent together can make the adjustment process much easier on the children because it gives them a sense of stability.
  • The quality of the co-parenting relationship can positively impact children’s mental and emotional wellbeing.
  • Children are less likely to feel like they are being put in the middle or having to choose sides.
  • It allows children to continue to maintain a healthy relationship with both parents.
  • Parents are less likely to need court assistance if they are able to co-parent well.

Co-Parenting Rules:

  1. Keep it business-like: Think of co-parenting like a business relationship. You and the co-parent are two business partners and the children are the business/asset. There will be times that you and your business partner will disagree on how best to manage the asset but you will have to work together and make compromises in order to ensure the business prospers.
  2. Be Empathetic: One of the best ways to deal with a co-parent that you don’t get along with is to be empathetic. If you are really able to put yourself in your children’s shoes and try to understand how difficult all of this must be for them and how your actions with the co-parent will impact them then you will be less likely to act based on your own feelings of hurt and resentment and act in the best needs of your children.
  3. Consistency: None of us like change and children are no exception to this. Keeping things as consistent as possible after a separation from the co-parent can help to minimize the impact of the separation on the children. A few ways to continue consistency would be to continue to live in the area the children are comfortable in and allowing them to finish up school before making any big moves.
    •  Rules & Consequences: Keeping the rules and disciplining strategies at both houses consistent can help mitigate a lot of confusion and ensure that both parents are on the same page. For example: if a child broke curfew at one house and isn’t allowed to watch TV for a week then the same rule applies while the child is at the other house. Discussing these rules and consequences before-hand with the co-parent and the children can be an effective way to ensure everyone is in the know.
      • Some areas to discuss include curfew, chores, phones, TV, video game usage, and activities that you do not want the children engaging in at either house.
    • Scheduling: Keep schedules for the children as consistent as possible. Scheduling consistencies gives children a sense of normalcy in their lives after a separation. If any changes need to happen to the schedule then relay that to the co-parent immediately.
      • Visitation schedules, bed times, homework time, school activities, mealtimes, and even TV and video game time are some things you may want to keep consistent in both homes.
  4. Communicate Directly with the Other Parent
    • Keep messages short, sweet and to the point. If there are hurt feelings from before then it can be best to keep communication limited to emails and texting.
    • Communicate often to ensure that you both are consistently on the same page. A good rule to follow is: Communicate anything and everything to the co-parent that you would want communicated to you.
      • Key areas include education, finances and anything health/medical related.
  5. Never Put Your Kids in the Middle
    • When working with children who are going through a divorce the number one thing they complain about is feeling like they are constantly being put in the middle by their parents. Often they feel like they are having to choose sides between parents which puts them in a very uncomfortable position.
      • Don’t Talk Bad about your Spouse: Never communicate any negativity about the co-parent to your kids or in front of the kids. If you have a problem with the co-parent communicate that to them directly never to your children.
      • Keep Adult Details Between the Adults: Do not share details about the separation or any conflict between the parents with your children. Your children and teens are not your friends. They need to be shielded from information that does not involve them. When parents disregard this then children often begin to resent their parents for putting them in the middle and/or end up feeling responsible for the parents’ feelings and take on the responsibility of trying to fix things.
      • Never communicate Through the Kids: Do not ever use your children as a way to communicate with the co-parent. Doing so gives children a level of responsibility they should not have to be accountable for.

Need Help? 

Co-parenting is one of the hardest things you can ever do. If you and the other parent are struggling to co-parent together in a healthy way, counseling can help and we would love to help you both.

Author’s Note:  Jasleen moved and is no longer working with Healing Hearts of Indy.  You can choose another therapist by going to the ‘Meet The Team’ tab on the home page or by calling (317)218-3038.