What Is Co Parenting? The Pros And Cons To Consider
Updated August 27, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Tonia Cassaday
The options that come with parenting children after divorce have drastically changed in recent decades. While couples used to spend lots of time and money fighting for their time with their children, a new way of parenting after divorce has gained popularity—co-parenting. When done right, there can be a lot of advantages for the children involved. But it’s not right for everyone’s situation. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Co-Parenting
Put merely, co-parenting is continuing to parent your child together even when you’re divorced. Instead of parents taking each other to court to gain custody of their children, the parents work together to do what’s best for the child. This can include the child having equal time with both parents and parents having equal rights in decision-making.
Co-parenting is not going to look the same for every family. It’s about finding what works best for your children as you move forward after divorce.
The Pros Of Co-Parenting
The most apparent pro for co-parenting is that it can be beneficial to the children involved. Instead of feeling like they’re being split between two separate households, the parents work together to make things as usual and easy for the child as possible.
For example, you and your ex work together to create a set of rules that are followed at both houses. You continue to present a united front for the family unit, even though you are now divorced. This can help create a more stable environment for your children as they grow.
Some couples even take it a step further than co-parenting and do something called bird nesting. 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. Some find that this is fairer to the child since the divorce was not their cause or their 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 in a more stable, healthy environment.
The Cons Of Co-Parenting
While the pros of co-parenting can be very important, it’s also important to consider the cons.
You Must Set Aside Your Feelings
When you’re co-parenting with your ex, you must learn how to set aside the negative feelings that you have towards them. Or, you at least need to learn how to control them, especially in front of your child.
Even though you’re divorced, if you co-parent, you will need to continue to work together as a team.
It Can’t Work For Everyone
Co-parenting is not going to be a feasible option or every family after divorce. For example, if you were in a narcissistic relationship, co-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 co-parenting can be the best thing for children, it’s not always the case. If you’re putting yourself in an unhealthy situation, it may be an unhealthy example for your children to see.
Tips On How To Be Successful In Co-Parenting
If you want to move forward with co-parenting, the following tips can help you, and your ex is successful at it.
Prioritize Healing From Your Relationship
There’s a good chance that you have some hurt over your broken relationship. This is very common in divorce and breakups. So, even if you do want to parent together, working together with the other person can feel incredibly difficult.
It can be helpful to allow yourself time and space to heal. It’s natural to grieve after a broken relationship. Allow yourself to work through the feelings that you have. You may want to consider talking to a therapist to help with the process of your emotions and work on moving forward healthily.
Have A Routine But Be Flexible
Routines can be important for children. When you get divorced, there’s a good chance that their normal routine has been completely disturbed. When you co-parent, it can be helpful to work together with your ex and children to create a new routine that everyone can follow and count on. This could include establishing a calendar, so the children know who they’re spending time with on what day, or even creating set times that your whole family spends together.
However, while having routines is important, you will also benefit from staying flexible while you’re co-parenting.
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 have 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 some type of major plans with your child, it could be helpful to be flexible with your ex in allowing them to have the child for the day. Remember, when your co-parenting, you are working to do what is in the best interest of your child even if it can sometimes mean not getting your own way.
Keep Communication Open
Once you’re divorced, you may wish that you didn’t have to have any type of communication with your ex, but that’s not possible with co-parenting. You will be most successful in your efforts if you keep the lines of communication open.
This doesn’t mean that the two of you need to be best friends or talk at all hours of the day. But it does mean that you should not do things like ignoring their calls constantly or skip responding to their text messages. This is especially true when the messages and calls are about issues related to your children.
It can be 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 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.
Think through what boundaries will help you to maintain a healthy relationship with your ex while still providing security and safety for your children. And, remember that it’s 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 co-parenting together or not. Do your best to avoid talking bad about your ex in front of your children. While you may have had negative experiences with them, you don’t want to put your personal experience on to your children.
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 dad, you may find that they try not to talk to you about what they did when they spent time with him. This is putting a wall up in between the two of you that doesn’t need to exist.
Remember Who The Parents Are
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 can be important to allow them to weigh in on some decisions, but remember that you and your ex are the parents. There are 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 can be hard. Marriage can be hard. And divorce can be 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 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. If you’re struggling with your new schedule as you adjust to life after divorce, it may be helpful to find an online therapist, like those with BetterHelp, instead of meeting in-person.
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