My Children Are My Main Priority: Effective Co-Parenting

Co-parenting with an ex-spouse or partner gives children stability and fosters similar rules, discipline and rewards between households.  It promotes a child’s ability to more effectively and peacefully solve problems and establishes a life pattern children can carry into the future.

Effective co-parenting means that your own emotions – anger, resentment or hurt – must take back seat to the needs of your children.  Setting aside these feelings may be the hardest obstacle to overcome after a divorce.  It is important that you remember, co-parenting is not about your feelings, or those of your ex-spouse, but rather about your children’s future happiness and stability. 

The following are useful tips to assist you with co-parenting in the future.

  1. Do not talk negatively, or allow others to talk negatively, about the other parent, their family and friends or their home in hearing range of the child.
  2. Do not question the children about the other parent or the activities of the other parent regarding their personal lives. In simple terms, do not use the child to spy on the other parent.
  3. Do not argue or have heated discussions with the other parent when the children are present or during an exchange.
  4. Do not make promises to the children to try and win them over at the expense of the other parent.
  5. Communicate with the other parent and make similar rules in reference to discipline, bedtime routines, sleeping arrangements, and schedules. Appropriate discipline should be exercised by mutually agreed of both parents.
  6. At all times, the decision made by the parents should be for the child’s psychological, spiritual, and physical well-being and safety.
  7. Visitation arrangements should be made and confirmed beforehand between the parents without involving the child in order to avoid any false hopes, disappointments or resentments toward the other parent.
  8. Notify the other parent in a timely manner of the need to deviate from the order, including cancelling visits, rescheduling appointments, and promptness.
  9. Do not schedule activities for the child during the other parent’s period of possession without the other parent’s consent. However, both parents should work together to allow the child to be involved in extracurricular activities.
  10. Inform the other parent of any scholastic, medical, psychiatric, or extracurricular activity or appointments of the child.
  11. Keep the other parent informed at all times of your address and telephone number. If you are out of town with the child, provide the other parent the address and phone number where your children may be reached in case of an emergency.
  12. Refer to the other parent as the child’s mother or father in conversation, rather than using the parents first or last name.
  13. Do not bring the child into adult issues and adult conversations about custody, the court, or about the other party.
  14. Do not ask the child where they want to live.
  15. Do not attempt to alienate the other parent from the child’s life.
  16. Do not allow stepparents or others to negatively alter or modify your relationship with the other parent.
  17. Do not use phrases that draw the children into your issues or make them feel guilty about time spent with their other parent.  For example, rather than saying, “I miss you,” say “I Love You.”

As you begin to co-parent, you and your ex are bound, on occasion, to disagree.  It isn’t necessary to meet in person—speaking over the phone or exchanging emails is fine for the majority of conversations. The goal is conflict-free communication, so see which type of contact works best for you.  Keep the conversations kid-based.

Remember, respect can go a long way, keep talking, don’t sweat the small stuff, and be willing to compromise.

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