Millions of people co-parent, but what does a successful co-parenting relationship look like? Executive Director Jeffrey Steiner of Dads’ Resource Center says, “Even if they are divorced, both parents should view the other parent as an equal partner in the upbringing of their children. More than anything else, children in separated families need both of their parents working in a collaborative manner throughout the remainder of their childhood.” 

In order for people to be successful at co-parenting there has to be a deliberate effort put forward on both parents’ part, according to Steiner. People will inevitably parent differently, but there are some things co-parents can do to help make things less stressful and more meaningful for their child and themselves. 

Many children of divorced or separated parents have two homes and have a different experience in each place. Sometimes there are different rules, and there can be very little communication between the parents, which can result in stress for the child. This is referred to as parallel parenting because there are two lives and experiences parallel to one another. While it's common, it's not an ideal situation.

Related: The 4 co-parenting secrets that made my whole family happy

A more peaceful route that can bring about a better experience and outcomes is what the Dads’ Resource Center calls cooperative co-parenting. This is when the two parents agree to be unified in raising their child. They both communicate effectively regarding the child, there is low conflict, and the child gets a more seamless experience. This requires parents to set aside any anger or resentment they have for one another and to put the child's needs and health first.

It’s never too late to strive for a positive co-parenting experience. Here are 5 tips for improving co-parenting relationships:

  • Improve cooperation. Make a goal of adopting a cooperative co-parenting relationship. Both parents need to be on board with this to succeed.
  • Open communication lines. Determine what communication style works best and then stick with it whenever possible. Some people prefer texting, while others would rather have phone calls. 
  • Stay organized. Create a schedule that works for both parents so there are no questions about how the week or month will go. Having said that, it’s also important that people be a little flexible and easy going for things that may come up that were unplanned.
  • Be consistent. Having the same rules at both houses keeps things consistent and helps a child make sense of their world. Avoid mixed messages by being on the same page when it comes to certain rules, like video game time, bed time, etc.
  • Start again. At times it may feel like it’s not working and things are sliding backward again. That’s when it’s time to sit down and have a discussion, refocus, and start again. It’s okay to keep re-starting and re-focusing as many times as it takes.

“Children today face extraordinary pressure,” said Dads’ Resource Center Founder and Chair Dr. Joel N. Myers. “With the internet and social media, they are bombarded by negative outside influences. The high costs for post-secondary education and our rapidly evolving job market make it increasingly difficult for them to plan for their future. Now more than ever, there is an urgent need for both parents to be fully involved in the upbringing and lives of their children.”

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