Co-parenting can be a challenge for many separated or divorced parents, but it is essential for the well-being of your children, as your relationship with your child’s other parent influences your whole family’s well-being.
Co-parenting requires effective communication, mutual respect, and a willingness to work together and put the interests of your children first.
Below are our tips and advice on how to successfully co-parent together.
Set Boundaries & Create a Parenting Plan
It is important to set clear boundaries and establish a parenting plan that outlines each parent’s responsibilities and expectations. The plan might include :
- Where will the children live
- When and how the children will spend time with each parent
- Arrangements for special days/events e.g. Xmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays etc.
- Agreements on holidays, including school holiday arrangements and how much notice you agree to give each other
- Holidays abroad – who holds the passport?
- How you will financially support your children, from their day-to-day living expenses, as well as any payments towards extra-curricular activities, school trips and health care.
- Will you both attend parents’ evenings together? Who will be the emergency school contact, where will the children go to school/nursery and who will be responsible for booking medical and dental appointments?
- Agree how you will communicate with each other ie. Whatsapp, phone, parenting app, but also how often your children will communicate with the other parent when they are not with them.
- If either of you has a new partner, you might want to agree on how you will introduce new partners to ensure the least emotional stress to your children. Maybe agree a timescale before introductions are made.
- How will your children spend time with their extended family such as grandparents?
If you would like to create your own parenting plan you can download a free parenting plan here. We have also created both a Summer holiday and Christmas parenting plan that you can complete with your ex to cover both these busy periods. However if you struggle to communicate, then Family Mediation can help you to build a Parenting Plan that you both agree on.
Although a Parenting Plan isn’t legally binding, if you both agree you have the option of formalising the agreement through a Consent Order.
Keep Communication Open and Respectful
The quality of interparental relationships, whether parents are together or separated, is increasingly recognised as a primary influence on children’s long-term mental health and future life chances. Research by EIF on behalf of DWP found that parents who engage in frequent, intense, and poorly resolved conflict put their children’s mental health and long-term life chances at risk.
Good communication is crucial for successful co-parenting. Parents should try to communicate openly and respectfully about their children’s needs and concerns and you both need to be willing to compromise and make decisions together. You may have heard of an approach called ‘Parallel Parenting’ which is an approach where parents disengage with each other, avoiding attending the same events, appointments, or activities and communication is limited. Whilst this may seem a practical solution for those in high-conflict situations, it comes with its own set of drawbacks, which we explore here.
It’s also important to ensure you don’t bad mouth your ex in front of your child. Remember they love you both, and it can be painful and confusing to them to hear you saying horrible things about someone they love. It can also impact your child’s self-esteem and increase their anxiety levels.
Put Your Children’s Needs First
The children should be your priority, and this should be front of mind when you are making decisions that involve them. You should avoid putting your own needs or emotions ahead of your children’s.
It’s also important to consider your child’s wishes for the future. You may want to think about allowing them to have a say, after all it is their life too. Child Inclusive Mediation gives children a voice and an opportunity to share their worries, concerns and contribute to the plans for the future.
Consistency is key when it comes to co-parenting. Children thrive on routine and predictability, so it’s important to establish consistent rules and expectations in both households.
While consistency is important, it’s also essential to be flexible when unexpected circumstances arise. Being willing to adjust the parenting plan or make changes to accommodate each other’s schedules can help reduce conflict and maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship. Remember that important dates (birthdays, celebrations, sports days,) are special to you, your child and the other parent and so flexibility will be required.
Seek Support When Needed
Co-parenting can be challenging, and sometimes help is needed. Seeking support from a family mediator can help co-parents navigate the challenges of co-parenting and help to maintain a healthy relationship for the sake of their children.
Successful co-parenting requires effort, patience, and a willingness to work together in the best interests of the children. By setting boundaries, communicating effectively, putting your children’s needs first, being consistent and flexible, avoiding conflict, and seeking support when needed, co-parents can maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship that benefits their children.
At NFM we help divorcing or separating couples turn their arguments into agreements and help them to co-parent successfully together. Get in touch today to book your appointment with a family mediator.
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