When parents divorce or separate, it can be difficult for them to maintain a civil relationship for the sake of their children. However, healthy co-parenting, or shared parenting, provides children with a sense of stability. This stability is critical to their well-being.
Co-parenting requires communication and cooperation to be successful. Although it can be challenging, there are ways to make co-parenting work for everyone involved. With a little effort, divorced and separated parents can work toward setting aside their differences and providing their children with the environment they need to thrive.
Keep reading to learn more about healthy co-parenting, and how parents can work together to make it a positive experience for each other and their children.
Co-parenting usually refers to both parents sharing responsibilities for their children following separation. Children may experience emotional turmoil when their parents divorce or separate. Co-parenting can help minimize the effects of separation. It involves maintaining positive communication with all parties involved.
There are different co-parenting arrangements, but most should involve both parents working together to decide the child’s welfare, living arrangements, education, and activities.
Co-parenting can be a challenge, but it can also be rewarding. By working together, parents can provide their children with a sense of stability during difficult times.
Effective co-parenting helps lower children’s stress and anxiety levels. It can also help reduce the conflicts between parents that negatively impact their children, and provide stability to the child.
For example, when parents clash, children
Children may benefit from knowing that both parents put them first and want to spend time with them. Additionally, children gain a critical sense of security and safety when they have a consistent routine or set of rules to abide by.
An essential factor to effective co-parenting is ensuring that the children’s emotional and physical needs always come first. This should remain a priority, no matter how the parents feel about one another.
Parents must recognize that co-parenting might be challenging at times, especially while living separate lives in different homes. Other factors, such as distance between homes, can make co-parenting more difficult.
Communication is key to the co-parenting process. The parents must make every effort to listen to one another and talk about their child only. Even if the situation is stressful, co-parents must ensure that they talk in a manner that is without blame, complaints, and sarcasm.
It may be difficult to make shared decisions, but parents must develop a set of rules and routines together for children to adhere to, no matter which home they are in. When the parents agree to these rules, they must abide by them and not attempt to undermine the other parent.
Parents should remember that effective co-parenting has considerable benefits and helps provide a consistent, stable environment for their children to thrive.
Co-parenting may be hard work initially, but the rewards for the children are invaluable. The following tips can help people effectively co-parent:
- Communicate: Parents should be able to discuss matters about their children openly, without concern of either one raising personal or past issues. When parents communicate effectively, resolving any conflicts becomes easier for all parties.
- Compromise: Parents should try to be open to each other’s concerns or ideas regarding matters about the children. Flexibility is also invaluable on both sides. Although routine is healthy for the children, it is easier for both parents if they are accommodating toward one another.
- Agree on strategies: Although parents are unlikely to agree on every decision, they need a basic level of agreement. This would be for essential factors, such as health, education, discipline, curfews, etc.
Co-parenting can be challenging, particularly if the parents have a strained relationship. Often, separated parents feel that the trust between them is lost, they must rebuild this in relation to parenting their children.
It is important for people to avoid some of the common mistakes when co-parenting. They should consider:
- Never talking badly about one another in front of the children. Although parents may find it challenging, setting aside any hurt and resentment is important.
- Not using the child as a weapon to punish the other parent, for example, withholding visits.
- Not using the child as a messenger, as this can put them at the center of any conflicts. Instead, parents should communicate directly with one another.
- Avoid buying excessive gifts or offering unusual freedoms to the child in an attempt to win favor.
Remember that children can feel responsible for their parents’ negative emotions toward the other. It is also important for parents and caregivers to understand that co-parenting is not about their feelings. It is about ensuring the child is happy and stable.
Coping with a mental health condition is extremely difficult both for the individual and their family members. Co-parenting with an individual living with mental health difficulties can be even more challenging. However, there are some steps that can help both parents and children cope. These include:
- Educating the children about their parent’s mental health: Parents should educate their children in an age-appropriate way about the symptoms of the condition and strategies for coping. Parents can seek advice from a qualified mental health professional to find the best approach for talking with their children and helping them understand that sometimes a parent or caregiver’s confusing behavior is not their fault.
- Modeling behavior: A parent or caregiver can explain to their children the importance of empathy and how to avoid escalating conflict. They can also explain how mental health issues can change a person’s behavior, which children may find difficult to understand. Parents can help model behaviors for children by talking kindly and calmly to one another. This approach may empower children to replicate the behavior.
- Separating the person from their diagnosis: Children need to understand that their parent has an illness and that this problem does not define them. Parents should avoid using terms such as “depressed” or “bipolar” to describe the individual living with the mental health issue. This language can stigmatize and negatively affect the children’s relationship with that parent.
- Establishing strong boundaries: If children report behaviors that concern them, the parent should discuss this directly with the co-parent. However, if the co-parent is suicidal, people should call 911 and request a welfare check rather than getting involved personally. This helps maintain healthy boundaries with no potential for manipulation.
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours per day at 800-273-8255. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 800-273-8255.
Co-parenting refers to divorced or separated parents who maintain a parenting partnership to ensure their children have a stable and secure environment.
Successful co-parenting can be challenging, and parents must learn to set aside their differences for the children’s sake. Maintaining a healthy co-parent relationship with a former partner can avoid potentially harmful impacts on the mental and physical health of a child.
The rewards for the children are so valuable, so it is worth investing efforts into overcoming any challenges by being patient, communicating, and being open to compromise.