How to Be a Great Parent in a Co-Parent Relationship

How to Be a Great Parent in a Co-Parent Relationship

Having both parents play an active role in their children’s daily lives is the best way to ensure your child’s needs are met. The key to successful co-parenting is to separate personal feelings from the co-parenting relationship. You might be concerned about your co-parent’s ability to parent safely, feeling stressed about financial issues or even worn down by conflict; but, for the sake of your child’s well-being, you should follow these six guidelines:

  1. Put the needs of your child above your own personal agenda.
    By doing this, your child will know and understand that they are more important than the conflict between you and your co-parent. “Stressors caused by toxic relationships are very upsetting to children … we work with parents to do a lot of reframing, and bring it back to being about the child’s well-being,” says Sara Barnes, LSCSW, LCSW, clinical manager of outpatient services at our Overland Park location.

  2. Value the existence of the other parent in your child’s life.
    Just because your child’s other parent might not have been a great partner doesn’t mean they are not a great parent. It is important for your child to have both parents involved in their life. Studies have shown that children who have both parents involved in their life do better academically, socially and psychologically.

  3. Establish the least-resistant path of communication.
    It is important that co-parents agree upon the best method to communicate about their child. For some that will be a weekly phone call to discuss the child’s upcoming schedule, as well as a time to share any concerns about the child. For others best communication will be through a weekly email to share information about their child. Regardless of the method, communication needs to occur and needs to be consistent, respectful, business-like and in a way both parents agree upon. Frequency of communication should also be agreed upon. It should be completely child-focused without any personalization.

    PRO TIP: There are some handy apps that can make scheduling and communicating with your child's other parent easier.

  4. Focus on improving your own parenting skills — not the other parent's.
    During co-parenting counseling, we work on the part each parent needs to play in the improved co-parenting relationship. Included in this is focusing on understanding what triggers each parent’s emotions and developing tools to utilize to manage them. Additional topics explored may include realistic expectations, boundary setting, smooth transitions, relaxation techniques, and how to be forward thinking instead of focused on the past.

  5. Do not criticize the other parent under any circumstance.
    It is important that your child feels safe and loved when they are with either parent. When one parent criticizes the other, it harms the child’s sense of safety. “We understand that often the parents have been in a negative place for a long time, and might think that the other one is the bad guy … they have to both know and understand that they don’t have to like each other, but they need to respect each other for the sake of the child,” says Barnes.

  6. Make the decision to commit to your child.
    Co-parenting relationships are not always easy and they take a lot of work, but being fully committed to making it work for the sake of your child’s well-being will help keep both parents on track. As Barnes explains, “The type of role model parents are for their children can have a huge impact on the type of parents the children, themselves, will be. Parents need to decide if they want to create a loyalty bind for their children, or create a loving, safe environment where children can feel free to love both parents equally.”

For some families going through a separation or divorce, it may be helpful to also have their child attend individual therapy sessions. Check our our other blog on how to talk to your child about going to therapy.

Learn More About Co-Parenting Therapy