Tips for co-parenting

Co-parenting involves both parents sharing responsibility for raising their children.

Michigan State University Extension has many resources to help build healthy families. People define the word family in many ways. There is the family you are born into that may include parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. There are also families that we ”make” ourselves that may include girlfriends, boyfriends, wives, husbands, neighbors and others. No matter how you define family, one definition is shared: Family includes people we love and people who love us. Those people who are connected to us through history and experience.

In the case of separation or divorce, your children more than likely include both of their parents in their definition of family. In these situations parents need to take on intentional co-parenting where both parents share the responsibility for raising and parenting their children. While it may not be easy, it is important for you and for your child’s wellbeing. 

Moms and dads need to become parenting partners with each other to give their child the best opportunity for growing up happy and healthy.  If they are not romantically involved, then parenting needs to take the form of a more businesslike, cooperative relationship that is focused on the best interest of the children. Transitioning to this type of relationship can be difficult in the face of separation; however it is possible and requires patience and practice.

Parents are better able to cooperate when:

  • Both parents decide to do what is in the best interest of the child
  • Each parent respects the other’s right to participate in parenting
  • Agreement is reached about some basic parenting rules
  • Angry feelings and resentment are let go of
  • Each parent is committed to parenting the child in a warm, loving manner

Communication is key in a good co-parenting relationship. In conflict situations with your child’s other parent, try to remember that your child loves this person, and what you want to happen is for your child to have all of you in their life.  Other things that can help include:

  • Speak positively about the other parent to avoid hurting your child
  • Talk about adult problems with adults
  • Communicate directly with the other parent and avoid using your child as a spy or messenger
  • Treat the other parent with respect and courtesy so your child will do the same.

Family relationships can be complicated in many ways, but they are still the best environment to raise a child. Raising children takes patience, tolerance and flexibility, even more so when you are co-parenting. Your children will appreciate your efforts to surround them with loving, supportive and cooperative adults. For more on this topic, read part two of this article, Divorce and effective co-parenting.

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