Why Use Co Parenting? The Pros And Cons To Consider

Updated March 31, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

The options that come with parenting children after divorce or separation have drastically changed in recent decades. While parents used to spend lots of time and money fighting for their time with their children, a new way of raising children after divorce or separation has gained popularity among families: co-parenting. Co-parenting is mainly an alternative to parallel parenting, when the two separated parents disengage with each other. In co-parenting there is frequent, open communication with support for both parents through means such as online therapy.

When done right, co parenting efforts can offer a lot of advantages for the children involved. That being said, it could potentially be damaging for the kids involved. It is not right for everyone’s situation or for all families, and this article will help you figure out if it may or may not be right for you. Here is what you need to know.

Trying To Determine If Co-Parenting Might Work For Your Family?

So... What Is Co-Parenting?

So... What Is Co-Parenting?

"What is co parenting?" Co-parenting is essentially divorced or separated parents continuing to raise their kid(s) together even when they're divorced. Instead of two parents taking each other to court to gain custody of their children, parents work together to do what is best for the child. This can include the child having equal time with each parent and equal rights in decision-making, even if a child is at the other parent’s house.

In contrast, there is also parallel parenting. In a parallel parenting plan, parents interact as little as possible but maintain relationships with their children. Parallel parenting may be necessary if conflicts or animosity between the parents are too great for co parenting to be successful.

A co parenting plan is not going to look the same for all parents or for all families. It is about finding what works best for your children as you move forward after divorce.

What Are The Pros Of Co-Parenting?

The clearest pro for co-parenting is that it can be beneficial to the children involved. Working together to make things as normal and easy for the child as possible is likely to help unify the parents and kids.For example, you and your ex work together to create a set of rules and a discipline plan that are followed at both housesin order to co parent effectively. At each parent’s house, you continue to co-parent in a way that presents a united front for the family unit, even though you are now divorced. This joint interaction can help create a more stable environment for your children as they grow.The consistency can help prevent more disruption in your child’s life. This can be part of a healthy, positive parenting plan.

Some co-parents even take it a step further and do something that is called bird nesting for their families. This is when the children continue to live in the family home, and the parents take turns rotating who is at the house with the children. So, instead of a child having to split their time between two separate houses, the parents are the ones that have to do it. One parent stays at the home with the kids for set amount of time before switching places with the other parent. Some find that it is fairer to the child to not have to navigate two households since the divorce was not their cause or choosing. It places a larger inconvenience on the parents instead of the children.

Overall, co-parenting can be beneficial to everyone involved because it can work to remove some of the tension out of the situation while helping the children to grow and develop in a more stable, healthy environment.

What Are The Cons Of Co-Parenting?

You Have To Set Aside Your Feelings

When you’re co-parenting with your ex, you must learn how to set aside the negative feelings that you may have towards them. Or, you at least need to learn how to control them, especially in front of your child. Even if you are divorced parents, if you co-parent, you will need to set aside conflict with your former spouse and continue to work together as a team as you raise children.

It Is Not Possible Or Healthy For Everyone

Co-parenting is not going to be a feasible option for all parents after divorce. For example, if you were in a narcissistic relationship, this type of parenting is going to have added layers of difficulty. Co-parenting with an ex that was abusive in any way can continue to put you in an unhealthy situation. While there are many situations where this style of parenting can be the best thing for children, it is not always the case. If you’re putting yourself in an unhealthy situation, it's likely an unhealthy example for your children to see. In such cases, the emotional well being and safety of you and your child must come first, so an individual parenting plan may be best.

If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or Text "START" to 88788. You can also use the online chat.

Tips On How To Be Successful In Co-Parenting

Now that you have the answer to "what is co-parenting," you get to decide if you want to use it. If you want to move forward with co-parenting, the following tips can help you and your ex be successful at it.

Prioritize Healing From Your Relationship

There is a good chance that you have some hurt over your broken relationship or marriage that ended. This is very common in divorce and breakups. So, even if you do want to co-parent, working together with the other person can feel incredibly difficult.

It can be helpful to allow yourself time and space to heal. It is natural to grieve after a broken relationship or to need time for emotional turmoil to settle. Allow yourself to work through the feelings that you have. You might want to spend time working on your own emotions by talking to a therapist. They can help you with the process of your emotions and work on moving forward healthily, allowing yourself to be a better person and better parent. Remember that you’re well being is important.

Have A Routine But Be Flexible

Having a routine is important when parenting children. When you get divorced, there is a good chance that their normal routine has been completely disturbed. When you co-parent, it can be helpful to work together with your co-parent and children to create a new routine that everyone can follow and count on. This could include establishing a calendar, so the children know which parent they’re spending time with on what day, or even creating set times that your whole family spends together. Time spent with children may also depend on custody agreements, such as whether a parent has sole custody or joint custody.

But being flexible is very important too. It may be your day or weekend to spend with your child, but there may be a reason why it makes more sense for your ex to parent them for the day. For example, your ex may have a family reunion that falls on a weekend when you were supposed to have your kids. If you didn’t already have major plans with your child, try to be flexible with your ex in allowing them to take care of the child for the day. Remember, when you're co-parenting, you are working to do what is in the best interest of your child even if it can sometimes mean taking a back seat or not getting your own way.

Keep Communication With Your Ex Open

Trying To Determine If Co-Parenting Might Work For Your Family?

Once you’re divorced, you may wish that you didn’t have to have any type of communication with your ex, but that is not possible with co-parenting. You will be most successful in your efforts if you keep the lines of communication between parents open.

This doesn’t mean that the two of you need to be best friends or talk at all hours of the day, but communicating effectively does mean that you should avoid doing things like ignoring their calls constantly or skip responding to their text messages repeatedly.

Establishing boundaries about when you’re available to communicate or creating a weekly schedule for when to communicate about the children may help. (Emergencies, of course, would be exceptions.) Creating a communication plan with your co-parent may benefit everyone. You could establish regular times to communicate, how you’ll communicate (phone, email, text, etc.), and what you’ll need to talk about regularly, such as children’s schedules, school happenings, and other things that are important in your children’s lives.

You might also communicate with your co parent about how you’ll handle conflict if it arises. Conflicts are inevitable in most partnerships, but if you’re on the same page about how you’ll talk about them and resolve them, you can be prepared to handle them without disrupting your children’s lives. Respectful communication can be an important part of successful co parenting.

Set Boundaries With Your Ex

It is essential to set boundaries in any type of relationship. Co-parenting with your ex forces you to keep some type of relationship with the other person. This can blur some of the lines that would otherwise exist if you weren’t co-parenting. For example, when you start dating again, your ex may feel like they get to weigh in on who you’re seeing because they’re around and co-parenting your children. If this is something that you don’t agree with, then you need to set that boundary in your relationship with your ex. Remember that it is important for you to respect the boundaries that your ex establishes for their life as well.

Don’t Speak Negatively About Your Ex In Front Of Your Kids

This is a good tip for any divorced couple, whether you’re parenting together or not. Do your best to avoid talking bad about your children's other parent in front of your children. While you may have had negative experiences with them, you don’t want to put your personal experience with your co-parent on to your children. Your children can benefit from having positive relationships with both of you.

This is not helping your child in any way, and it can cause them to be uncomfortable communicating with you. For example, if you are constantly bad mouthing your children’s other parent, you may find that they try not to talk to you about what they did when they spent time with them. This is putting a wall up in between the two of you that doesn’t need to exist.

Remember Who The Parent Is

Just because you and your ex are working together to make things easier on your children does not mean that the kids are in control. It can be easy if you’re not careful, for the power to begin shifting to the child. Yes, it is important to allow them to weigh in on some decisionsbut remember that you and your ex are the parents. There are parenting decisions that the two of you will need to make together, and possibly with new stepparents, which your children don’t need to be included in.

Find A Support System

Parenting is hard. Marriage is hard. And divorce is hard. Having a support system to turn to can have a positive impact on your life. This may be friends and family that can help encourage you, motivate you, and comfort you as you transition from your past relationship into divorce and co-parenting.

Or, a support system could be finding a support group for newly divorced people. It can be helpful to talk with others who are going through similar situations. They may be able to provide you with useful tips that you can use as you work on forming a new healthy co-parenting relationship with your ex.

And again, you may find it helpful to talk with a therapist as you navigate through what could be a difficult adjustment in your life. Many parents find that therapy can improve their lives. Whether you’re a mother or a father, if you’re struggling with your new parenting schedule or your own feelings as you adjust to life after a breakup, it may be helpful to find an online therapist, like those with BetterHelp, instead of meeting in-person.

For additional help & support with your concerns

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started