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  • Temara Willis

Steps for successful co-parenting

The steps for successful co-parenting are pretty simple but require openness, commitment and a significant effort from both parents.

Steps for successful co-parenting


Separation is rarely easy and is often more complicated when there are children involved. Family breakups are often upsetting, confusing and difficult for children. However, if done correctly, navigating co-parenting can be a source of stability and comfort for children.


Co-parenting emerges when both parents play an active role in their children's daily lives. It often goes hand in hand with a parenting agreement that determines how your children will divide their time. Raising children as co-parents inevitably involves and requires a substantial amount of interaction and cooperation between both parents. Both parents will always have a role to play in making decisions about their children's lives, such as where they go to school, where they live or what sports they play.


As the Principal Mediator at Adelaide Family Mediation I believe that the steps for successful co-parenting are simple but require openness, commitment, and a significant effort from both parents. While co-parenting will always have its challenges, there are two things to keep in mind:

  • Children who have a healthy relationship with parents who are not in conflict are happier, healthier, and better adjusted; and

  • If the children are safe and taken care of, do not sweat the small stuff. Reducing and minimising conflict should always be a priority. Does it matter what the child had for dinner at the other parent's house?

It is also important to remember that the co-parenting relationship, good or bad, will always influence the children. So, as a parent, you need to separate your personal feelings about your ex-partner and remember that being a co-parent is solely about the well-being of your children. This is way easier said than done as many scenarios can cause tension, such as living agreements, resentment, or concerns about the other's parenting abilities. With that said, it is essential to recognise the benefits of co-parenting. Your children will feel more secure, benefit from consistency, have a healthy example to follow and have better emotional and mental health. Follow along to learn about our tips for successful co-parenting.


Put Your Feelings Aside


Whatever happened between you and your ex-partner is no longer relevant. You do not have to like them, but you must communicate and respect them as your co-parent. To do that requires you to leave your emotions and feelings towards your ex-partner at the door. It's not easy to sometimes do but remember that it needs to be done for the sake of your children. Ultimately, the fate of your co-parenting relationship rests on your mindset and how well you can put your feelings aside.


Things to remember

  • Avoid criticising the other parent in front of the children

  • Don't fight in front of the children

  • Set boundaries that are comfortable for you

  • Think of your ex as a colleague

Effective Communication


At Adelaide Family Mediation we believe that communication is a vital aspect of any successful relationship, romantic or co-parenting. The goal is to establish clear and effective communication that is conflict-free and works for everyone. Mediation or (Family Dispute Resolution) can assist with tool on how to effectively communicate with your ex-partner however we know that it can be awkward and uncomfortable after separation, and this is normal. Do not stress or overthink it. Instead, find communication avenues that work best for both of you.


Communication should always be centred around your children and their needs. Think of your co-parenting relationship like a business relationship (i.e. two colleagues working on the same project). Keep the tone professional and ask questions if you are not sure. It is always better to ask than ask for forgiveness.


Practical tips for effective communication

  • Be professional: treat your co-parent like a business partner. Always be respectful, polite and clear in your communication.

  • Be respectful: no name-calling, no nicknames, and no abusive language.

  • Always ask: always ask or check-in with your partner before making a decision.

  • Listen: sometimes, people only hear what they want to hear or expect to hear. Therefore, it would be best if you took the time to listen and digest and consider their perspective.

  • Communicate regularly: make sure you are checking in and passing along important information. For example, when day and night employees cross over, they share information about what happened—the same idea when you are co-parenting.

  • Keep conversations centred around the children: it's best to focus communication around them since they are the priority. The relationship between you and your co-parent is in the past, and that is where it should say. It is not about you or your needs, and it's about your children and their needs.

  • Learn to compromise, it is not always going to be perfect, and you will disagree. However, communicating helps you navigate these disagreements and allows co-parents to come to a mutual agreement.

  • Always provide the other parent with information that you would expect or want that parent to give to you. Remember, co-parenting is not about you. It is about your children.

Consistency


The goal of co-parenting is to become a cohesive and united team. Of course, that does not happen overnight, but as you work toward this, your children will become familiar with the idea of consistency. A parenting plan developed during family mediation can help you create consistency. For example, you can develop a plan with fundamental rules the same at both houses. Of course, there will be some subtle differences between parents' homes, but the foundation should remain the same. This is crucial as the children adjust from living in one household to going back and forth between two households.


How to be consistent

  • Have a plan or schedule: create a plan and stick to it. That way, everyone knows what is happening when and there are no surprises or disappointment.

  • Establish a standard set of rules: it is unrealistic to think that the rules at both households would be the same. However, lifestyle rules should be similar if not the same at both parents’ homes (e.g. homework, curfews).

  • Maintain alignment in discipline: Similar consequences should exist for breaking the rules. Discipline should be continuous. For example, a punishment should not end because the child is going to the other parent's house.

  • Maintaining consistency in your co-parenting relationship can be challenging and time-consuming. Still, it provides your children safety and security. But, at the same time, inconsistency can be confusing and frustrating for children. Thus, it is essential to put in the time and patience needed to cultivate a successful co-parenting relationship.

Summary


It is no surprise that a successful co-parent relationship has enormous benefits for your children's emotional and mental well-being. It increases the children's sense of security and reduces stress and anxiety. I believe that successful co-parting is a conscious choice by parents to prioritise their children ahead of their personal feelings, needs or wants. It requires putting emotions aside, developing practical communication skills. With those three pillars at the forefront, everything else will fall into place. Most importantly, following these steps to co-parenting will help ensure that your children will grow up in a safe, healthy and happy environment.


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