A key concern for divorcing parents is how they will continue to parent their children after separation and whether co-parenting will work for them.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to co-parenting after divorce and how you move forward will be influenced by your relationship with your ex. For example, whether you are on good terms still, and whether you are both equally willing to cooperate.
For couples who have divorced amicably and want to continue to work together to share responsibility, co-parenting is a popular post-separation parenting method.
What is co-parenting?
Co-parenting centres on collaboration and openness. It works best for divorced or separated parents who both want to continue to raise their children together, despite no longer being a couple.
Co-parenting plans are unique to each family. This means co-parents can work together to make decisions that best suit their family’s needs. This amicable approach provides a helpful framework that prioritises the best interests of the children.
How is co-parenting different to parallel parenting?
In contrast, parallel parenting intentionally minimises communication and collaboration between separated parents. This technique is particularly helpful in divorces that involve domestic abuse, high-conflict, narcissistic partners, or where co-parenting hasn’t been successful.
Benefits of co-parenting
Some benefits of co-parenting include:
- Co-parenting can help children continue to feel supported, loved, and connected to both parents
- By maintaining open and respectful communication with your co-parent you can prioritise your children and their needs
- Establishing clear guidelines for co-parenting responsibilities, such as schedules, holidays, and financial contributions, you can help prevent misunderstandings
- Agreeing routines and rules between both households helps provide stability and consistency for the children.
Tips from a family coach for successful co-parenting
Co-parenting is an ongoing process that requires patience, understanding, and mutual co-operation. While it may be challenging at times, there are ways that you and your ex can create a successful co-parenting approach.
Here, Nichole Farrow, divorce and family coach, shares her top tips for successful co-parenting.
Finding a way to successfully co-parent is vital for your kids’ development and your own mental wellbeing.
As a member of a blended family, I have witnessed firsthand the impact of painful divorces and feuding parents, which throw a long shadow over family events and future generations.
As separated parents, it is your responsibility to find a way to co-parent for the sake of your children, and for your own good. After all, your ex isn’t going away.
With this in mind, here are my top 7 tips on how to co-parent successfully:
Break your news together
Start as you mean to go on and break the news of your split together. This shows them right from the start that you are both still there for them. Don’t underestimate how much of an impact this will have on your children. This is almost certainly the most difficult thing they will ever have had to cope with.
Let it go
Whatever the reasons for your divorce are, and whoever you feel is to blame, let it go. The person your resentment truly harms is you. You are wasting vital energy that may be better spent elsewhere.
Your child is not your emotional crutch
Do not tell your children about the specifics of your divorce, the reasons for it, or how you feel about it. Instead, make sure you have a support network you can talk to, such as friends, family, or a coach, rather than your children. They are not there to serve as a sounding board for your mental health.
Be mindful of your language
Never bad mouth your ex to, or in front of, your children. This puts your children in an uncomfortable position and may unfairly make your children feel guilty or like they have to choose sides. By criticising your partner you’ll more likely cause your children to think less of you, not your partner, and you never know when your words will come back to bite you.
Do not make them choose
Your ex is not your rival. Making your children choose between you both will end badly for everyone and cause your children unnecessary upset. Remember, your children love you both regardless of whether you’re married or not.
Never use your children to get back at your ex
The damage this will do is unimaginable. Let them enjoy their childhood rather than weaponising their relationship with their other parent. After all, we are all the products of our environment. Being stuck between two warring parents might impact your childrens’ mental health now, or later in life.
Your child is not your messenger
Communicating with your ex directly on all matters is crucial to your success as co-parents. Using your children as a go between undermines you both and your united parenting, and again puts them in an uncomfortable place. Whether you’re sharing useful information about the week ahead, or something more important, you must be the one to let your ex know through your agreed communication methods.
Nichole Farrow is a leading UK-based divorce coach specialising in family coaching for blended families who want to build a harmonious home life where they can all flourish. Get in touch with Nichole.