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How to Co-Parent Successfully

Updated: Apr 29, 2022

Co-parenting successfully is a loaded topic. There are so many opinions, intentions, and dynamics. It is hard to keep co-parenting on course.


Because co-parenting is so dynamic and there will be changes as your child grows. In fact, you can view the co-parenting experience like the tide. There are times you can easily manage it and other times you feel that you’ve been swept away in the rip current -- often when you didn't even see it coming.

So, how can you manage co-parenting successfully? Well, here are some of the best ways to make co-parenting more positive and rewarding.

1. Your children’s needs come first.

“Whatever your issues are with your co-parent, put your children’s well-being on the front burner, always,” says relationship expert Sylvia Smith for Our Family Wizard.

“Divorcing parents often say this is the hardest concept to remember, especially if the divorce is messy,” Smith adds. “But making your children’s security and sense of stability a priority is a key to a ‘successful’ divorce.”

Therefore, it is crucial to put the children first, even if this means working with a family therapist to help you and your co-parent keep the conversation centered on what is best for the children while you discuss the past, she suggests.

2. Be a high-value co-parent.

What exactly is a high-value co-parent? Well, according to a podcast episode of “The Art of Charm,” this means possessing the following qualities; cooperation, kindness, and generosity.

As an example, let’s say that the other parent has concerns over your child’s schoolwork. Instead of dismissing them, you give them your undivided attention until they’re done voicing their concerns. You could then brainstorm suggestions on how to get on the same page.

Obviously, this can lead to a much healthier and more productive relationship for you, your ex, and most importantly children. If not, the alternative would be a low-value parent. This is someone who plays the blame game, victim card, or is argumentative and combative.

3. Remain open to the other parent’s viewpoint or opinion each time you interact.

Even if you can be considered a high-value parent, there will still be times when you and your ex won’t share the same opinions. When this occurs, work on being tolerant of their perspective by doing the following;

  • Identify common ground, like cheering on your child’s soccer team.

  • Think about what it would be like to be in the other person's position.

  • In order to gain an understanding of the other's point of view, ask follow-up questions.

  • Whenever you feel yourself getting angry or uncomfortable in response to a belief, take a time out before you respond.

  • Rather than focusing on what someone says, think about who they are. There is a significant difference between "I don't like you" and "I don't like your idea."

  • When sharing your opinion, use "I" language instead of the pronoun "you."

  • Different opinions do not constitute an indictment of you personally.

4. Communicate about relevant topics with the other parent.

Always include the other parent on things you are aware of and stay involved for the return of additional information. In other words, have a healthy volley of communication.

I would recommend making this a regular occurrence, like once a month. This will give you a chance to check in and address any issues before they erupt into bigger problems.

5. Be flexible, even if it pains you.

In times of uncertainty, stability and consistency are important to a child's sense of security. However, showing flexibility is also equally important.

“If parents give each other the benefit of the doubt on scheduling and forgiveness—they will give their children supportive, soft places to land during hard situations,” says Sherrill A. Ellsworth, former judge and co-founder of coParenter. You may need to switch days if necessary, stand by your co-parent during a soccer game, or even share the Thanksgiving table with your ex - no matter how sickening the idea makes you.

“Always try to stick to the schedule,” adds Jennifer Hurvitz, author of One Happy Divorce and the podcast Doing Divorce Righ. “But if your ex needs to make a change and it’s an easy one for you, don’t say ‘no’ just to be difficult.”

“One day you might need the same favor,” says Hurvitz.

6. Share positives about your time with the kids.

Take pictures of fun moments with the kids or snap a picture when you're having a particularly cute moment. While your kids are with you, the other parent will probably miss them terribly, and a quick text, photo, or video can help them feel better when they are away from them.

This generosity will make them more likely to return the favor when you need it as well. And, it can maintain healthy lines of communication while also finding common ground.

7. “Fair” doesn’t always mean “equal.”

After a divorce, many parents mistakenly believe that sharing access 50/50 is “fair”. This may not be what is best for you and your child(ren).

“But what makes sense for the child might not look like that,” says Nancy Cameron, a family lawyer, and parenting coordinator in Vancouver. For kids, it might make sense for their parent to spend more time with them if their mom travels frequently for work. Even if it means giving up some of "your" weekend, try to make hockey practice part of the schedule if your ex has always taken your child to practice. And make sure to get your children's input as well.

“They don’t want to be in control, but they do want what’s important to them to be taken into consideration,” says Cameron.

8. Accept that the co-parent is still your child's parent.

Yes, even if you dislike them personally. After all restraint of the tongue goes a long way.

"Offhand comments, snide remarks, and belittling are all things your children notice. If you are upset with the co-parent, seek out adults to have those conversations," says Dr. Cassandra Fay LeClair, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer in Communication Studies at Texas State University, who specializes in communications across interpersonal relationships. "If the co-parent is caring for your child, and you are not concerned about their well-being—the feelings of anger belong to you."

Despite your feelings about the other parent your child still loves them, respect that.

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