Four Foundations for a Successful Co-Parenting Partnership
Welcome to the world of co-parenting, where so many emotions, feelings, and thoughts can get wrapped up in this one word! It’s normal to find it easy to relate and communicate with some people but harder with others. No matter how hard it might be, it is important that you put forward an effort to find new ways of communicating and working together with your children’s other parent.
Why is it important to find new ways of working together?
All children have the right to love both their parents and be loved by both of their parents. The best way for you to think about divorce would be as the process of “uncoupling the marriage or past relationship,” not breaking the family unit, because, from a child’s perspective, they will always have their family.
The uncoupling process impacts everyone in different ways, and figuring out how to relate to the other parent takes work! Emotions are high and always changing, thus making this process challenging.
Here are four important things you can do to lay the foundation for a successful shared parenting partnership. Even if you have been co-parenting for some time, you can still use the information below to reassess and shift the dynamics of your shared parenting partnership to encourage more positive support for your children.
1. Understand that you and your co-parent are “business” partners in raising your children
The truth is that you have just entered into a new kind of partnership with your children’s other parent, and your collective mission is to create an environment where your children are allowed to love both of you and be loved by both of you!
Think of your new partnership as similar to a business partnership. You are both invested in the well-being of your child and want them to succeed. The difference with this partnership is that neither of you can “buy” the other person out; after all, your children need both of you in their lives to thrive.
Another way to think about it is like a tree that needs to grow and thrive. You and your child’s other parent are the roots of the tree, and in order for your children to grow up and flourish, they need both parent’s roots, love, and support to grow and blossom.
Reading and mentally understanding this are much easier than shifting one’s mindset, communication style, mannerisms, and emotions. Learning how to separate your personal emotions and feelings from the new co-parenting partnership to focus only on issues about the kids is a great step to take in laying the foundation for a positive co-parenting partnership.
2. Assess & set supportive internal boundaries
It is imperative to look inward at the personal boundaries you have (or don’t have) for yourself. You see, healthy boundaries are there when you truly honor yourself and your needs, thus eliminating the need to put outward-facing boundaries towards others.
Start with taking an internal look at yourself. Define what you really want for your life and learn to respect and honor yourself. Then, define your personal boundaries to help you live the life you want.
Just like with a business, it’s important to understand exactly what you strive to achieve helps you plot your course for success. As it relates to your business-like co-parenting partnership, having healthy personal boundaries means assessing what you want your partnership to be like now and into the future.
For example, suppose you want to have little communication, dialog, or contact with your co-parent. In that case, it’s very important to be aware of this and to create personal boundaries that support what you want while being mindful to ensure that your children’s needs are cared for, first and foremost.
An example of a healthy boundary to support your needs might be to agree that child drop-off meeting locations happen at the day-care or school rather than at each other’s homes to minimize contact. Conversely, suppose you want to have ongoing contact and engagement with the other parent. In this situation, honoring your boundaries would be to have drop-offs where you are not in a rush and have some time to chat.
3. Objectively evaluate your past couple dynamic
As in any business partnership, it is important to learn and understand how your partner thinks so that you are able to work together more easily. To co-parent effectively, you will need to understand how to work with your co-parent.
Taking the time to objectively evaluate your past decision-making dynamic will help you in determining what will be the best co-parenting structure and plan to support a successful shared parenting partnership. You might start by asking yourself some or all of the following questions:
- How did you relate to each other while you were together?
- Were you able to have a conversation about a topic in which each of you had different opinions and come to a compromise on how the issue would be resolved?
- Was there one person in the relationship that made all the decisions in your home?
Once you are aware of what your previous dynamic was, you can then create a shared parenting structure to support a more peaceful, business-like partnership. For example, if your previous dynamic was one of compromise, then considering a parenting structure like nesting or co-parenting may work for you when divorced. If your previous dynamic had no room for compromise, then perhaps parallel parenting would be more suitable for your shared parenting partnership.
4. Observe the other parent’s outward boundaries toward you
Becoming aware of how your co-parent is acting or reacting to you is necessary for the success of your new business-like partnership.
For example, if they communicate with you by texting and don’t respond to any other method of communication, then this is most likely their preferred approach of communicating with you. If you can live with that, great! Consider this one of the ways that your partnership is working well! However, if you have not set a personal boundary for yourself and feel annoyed by the texting, then texting may begin to break down your cordial, business-like co-parenting partnership.
When you honor your personal boundaries and observe the other parent’s boundaries, it becomes easier to address these issues, just like you would in a business partnership or with a colleague. It is hard to get emotional when speaking of your own personal boundary in a business relationship manner.
Below are two sample emails using the above scenario that illustrate honoring personal boundaries when communicating:
“I would like to come up with a communication strategy that works best for both of us so that we are meeting the needs of the kids. I found what is working best for me is when I communicate to you about parenting issues via email and reserve text messaging for emergency issues such as delays in drop-offs or the kids being sick. Is this something that would work for you?”
“I will be able to respond to your question about our children when I receive the information in email format, as I do not check my text messages regularly.”
If you are just starting out on this journey, these foundations will help you define your new parenting structure, plan, and communication strategy to promote a more successful, business-like co-parenting partnership. If your structure and plan have already been established, using the above foundations will help you identify opportunities to improve your co-parenting partnership.
If you feel you need additional support, reach out to professional support like coaches, mental health providers, mediators, or a family law attorney to discuss this and help you improve your co-parenting partnership.
Janet Price is a Certified Divorce Specialist, Conscious Co-Parenting Coach, and Life Purpose Coach. Janet helps strong, loving parents connect to their nurturing instincts so they can rise above the insanity of divorce and co-parenting to shift from surviving to THRIVING for themselves and their children.
Janet is passionate about helping parents learn how to shift & strengthen their mindset so that their children of divorce have the opportunity to love both of their parents. The goal is for the children to experience what it’s like to “just be a normal kid” growing up in two loving households.