Co-parenting while living apart
Angie Nickell, former Graduate Assistant, Human Development and Family Studies, University of Missouri
Co-parenting involves negotiating how day-to-day parenting responsibilities and decisions will be shared. The extent to which parents can work together as partners in parenting is related to children’s adjustment and well-being. Studies have shown that children with parents who cooperate and support each other do better in school and have higher self-esteem. However, co-parenting can be especially difficult for divorced, separated and never-married parents who must work together while living apart. Below are some tips to make it easier.
How can I effectively co-parent with my child’s other parent?
- Try to come to an agreement on parenting decisions with
the other parent. Effective co-parenting takes place when children
receive the same message from both parents. Whether the parenting
decision is about setting a bedtime or whether or not the child
can join the soccer team, children benefit when they observe
their parents cooperating and supporting each other’s parenting
- Keep the other parent informed about your child’s school
issues, activities, medical issues and any concerns about his
or her behavior or discipline.
- Do not use your child as a messenger or spy. It is very
difficult for a child to cope with feeling caught in the middle.
Therefore, when you need to communicate with the other parent,
contact him or her directly and ask him or her to do the same.
Also, do not ask your child questions about the other parent’s
- Avoid arguing with the other parent in front of your child.
When co-parenting disagreements arise, try to work toward resolving
the issue in private. Some behaviors that help conflict resolution
are: clear, non-defensive communication, mutual respect, maintaining
focus on the topic at hand and remaining calm. Leave criticism,
defensiveness and sarcasm out of your discussion.
- Do not use your child as an ally. Your child wants to love
both of his or her parents. Asking your child to take your side
in any situation regarding the other parent can create a tremendous
amount of stress for your child.
- Do not criticize the other parent in your child’s presence. One of the most stressful events for a child is when a parent puts down the other parent in front of the child. Avoid venting your hostile feelings toward the other parent in front of your child. Also, think carefully when you are talking about the other parent when your child can overhear you. Try to work on your relationship with your child rather than concentrating on your negative feelings for the other parent.
Last Updated 03/28/2011