According to research by SRCD (Society for Research in Child Development), a strong coparenting relationship involves:

  1. Mutual Support: Both parents offering each other help and encouragement.
  2. Low Undermining: Avoiding behaviors that weaken the other parent’s authority or decisions.
  3. Minimal Hostile Conflict: Keeping conflicts between parents respectful and constructive.
  4. Balanced Parenting Responsibilities: Sharing parenting duties fairly.
  5. Balanced Relationships with Children: Ensuring both parents have equally positive and involved relationships with their children.

What is Co Parenting?

Co-parenting is when people who are not in a romantic relationship work together to raise a child. This can involve two or more individuals sharing responsibilities for the child’s care and upbringing. It is a collaborative approach to parenting that focuses on the child’s well-being.

Co-parenting can involve biological parents, stepparents, or other caregivers working together for the benefit of the child. They share the job of raising the child, like making decisions and giving love and support.

These individuals could be biological parents, adoptive parents, stepparents, or other caregivers involved in the child’s life. Co-parenting involves sharing responsibilities related to the upbringing of the child, including decision-making, discipline, financial support, and emotional support.

Good co-parenting needs communication, cooperation, and respect between all involved. The main goal is the child’s well-being and best interests.

Different Co Parenting Styles

In co-parenting, there are three main approaches that parents may adopt: high conflict, parallel, and collaborative.

High conflict co-parenting is characterized by consistent arguing and a heavy reliance on third-party communicators, such as family members, lawyers, or even children to pass along information between parents.

On the other hand, parallel co-parenting involves low-conflict situations with minimal communication between parents. This is the most common approach.

A parallel co-parenting plan works well because both spouses have previously agreed on a parenting plan and parenting boundaries. However, this is still not the ideal situation for the child. Without communication between parents, it’s easy for the child to feel isolated between two lives.

Collaborative co-parenting entails joint planning, coordination, and a degree of flexibility in parenting schedules. It also involves offering parental support to each other, fostering a more cooperative and supportive relationship between the parents for the benefit of the children involved.

The Lasting Effects of Co Parenting on Your Children

Co-parenting can affect child adjustment in several ways. For instance, children may observe and model their parents’ conflict resolution and social skills. Positive coparenting relationships promote good behavior and better social and emotional development (fewer behavior problems and greater social competence).

Setting an example of open and empathetic communication between you and your spouse will help your child’s confidence. Your children will gain self-esteem and confidence, and express themselves when they feel the need to communicate. Your children will feel they have a voice to openly communicate without fear. This will reduce their level of anxiety and fear.

In addition to enforcing high levels of confidence, collaborative co-parenting fosters an positive and loving environment for your children. Your children will have a better chance of maintaining a strong bond between both parents, helping them to develop healthy attachments. Your children can freely love both of their parents equally and stay connected without the feeling of betrayal or fear.


What do co-parents struggle with the most?

The difference between a permissive parent and an authoritarian parent can often cause issues. You both have two separate ideas of what your parenting practices should look like, and making decisions with this in mind can cause roadblocks. This difference in the type of parenting style also probably played a major role in your divorce.

A permissive parenting style is going to lean towards a more lenient, indulgent way of parenting. While an authoritarian parent may enforce strict rules without much explanation or flexibility.

A difference in parenting styles can cause issues when you and your ex partner sit down to discuss how you will co-parent. If both parties can agree that they’re parenting styles are different, then they can agree that inconsistency does not work will with the child.

Both parents need to acknowledge beforehand that disagreements will arise, but the child’s physical and emotional needs should always come first.

How to co-parent with a difficult ex?

All in all, unfortunately it is your responsibility to take the high road. Co-parenting with narcissists, addicts, or someone struggling with their mental health can be extremely challenging without solid boundaries. For example, your ex is not welcome to visit your home to see your children unannounced. Unless you have both agreed that unplanned visits are welcome on both sides, then your ex cannot visit your home without your consent.

It can be difficult to be a model of compassion to your children when your ex is being rude or erratic. However, it is necessary. Young children have a hard time understanding that one of their parents is manipulative or possibly abusive. So, it is your responsibility to ensure a stable, happy home until the child is old enough to grasp such a harsh truth.

A stable environment, free of parental arguments and conflict, can ease the stress divorce can have on a child. It can also lower their risk for depression and anxiety.

How to be a good co-parent to your ex and kids?

Being a good co-parent to your ex spouse sets the tone for how your children feel about you and your family.

An easy step to take is keeping your ex updated. Any changes to established plans, intention to travel, delays or cancellations should always be a part of your communication. In addition to changes, you should make a plan for any events, tasks and activities. If you and your ex are on good speaking terms, then game days and school plays become a loving, supportive event for your child.

Tips and Resources

Legal assistance is not always required to establish a solid co-parenting schedule, maintain effective communication, or make compromises for the well-being of your children. However, if you’re dealing with a narcissistic or abusive co-parent, involving a third party can help prevent outbursts and unnecessary arguments.

Nevertheless, if you’re able to communicate civilly with your ex-partner, it’s strongly recommended that you try to have a discussion with them to hash out the specifics of your co-parenting plan.

You can find helpful co-parenting plans online for free, such as this template from the Office of the Attorney General of Texas. As well as this co-parenting agreement template from Toynbee Hall. American SPCC also provides a wonderful list of tips for newly divorced parents.

Develop a solid support system

The role of friends and family is crucial in co-parenting. When you feel confident in your support system, then you feel more confident in yourself as a parent. The community of support that you give yourself is the same support group that your child experiences. Keep your family close, and tell people you trust about the situation you’re in.

Find who your support team is, and give them details on your co-parenting plan. If you surround yourself with people that understand your situation and want to help, both you and your child will feel confident and supported.

Agree to disagree

Remember, it’s normal for you and your ex to not always agree, but if you both agree that your kids come first, you’re on the right path.

Be honest, but don’t overshare with your kids

It should never be your child’s responsibility to bear the burden of your divorce. Petty disagreements and squabbles should always be kept out of sight of your child.  

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