Co-parenting guidelines

Co-parenting guidelines

1. Parents should aim for a decent, business-like, working relationship with one another that meets the needs of their children.

  • Watch your language; be courteous and mutually respectful.
  • Keep your feelings in check.
  • Respect the other parent’s privacy and expect the same in return.
  • Act like a guest in the other parent’s home.
  • Don’t expect appreciation or praise from the other parent, but do acknowledge when they show understanding, sensitivity, compromise, or flexibility and support and expect the same in return.
  • Keep a positive but realistic attitude.
  • Keep your sense of humour and encourage it in the other parent.
  • Be reliable; do what you say you are going to do and expect the same from the other parent.
  • Be flexible and supportive of the other parent and expect the same in return.
  • Be patient; Rome wasn’t built in a day.
  • Expect to feel strange about this new relationship at first; give yourself time to adjust.
  • Though it may be difficult at first, don’t give up; the effort is worth it.

2.  In all interaction between parents, use good communication practices.

  • Be explicit with the other parent.
  • Direct communication between parents should be preferred at all times; do not communicate through third parties, especially the children.
  • Say what you mean and mean what you say; make no assumptions.
  • Double-check your verbal understandings; to build trust, don’t take the other parent for granted.
  • Demonstrate you understand what the other parent is saying.
  • Try to ensure that verbal and non-verbal messages are the same and are not in conflict.
  • Know the things that trigger conflict between parents and avoid them.
  • Confront only with great care.
  • Keep the other parent a person in your mind, don’t make him or her into a monster.

3. Parents should work to maintain a healthy, positive parenting pattern.

  • Time with the children is time together, not babysitting.
  • Make your children’s needs more important than your territorial rights or your independence; always, children before rules or procedures.
  • Respect the other parent’s time with the children.
  • Respect the other parent’s parenting style.
  • Interfere with the other parent’s effort only if your children need your protection.
  • Share information about the children frequently with the other parent; parenting continuity is important as the children move between households.
  • Parents should compare notes on the other adults in your children’s lives including teachers, doctors, and other professionals.
  • Each parent should be supportive of the other parent’s relationship with the children.
  • Don’t use the children to carry messages to the other parent.

4.  Parents should work to develop and maintain a healthy, positive relationship with their children.

  • Let your children know you are thinking about them and expect them to keep in touch with you.
  • Make regular contact with the other adults in your children’s lives, including teachers and doctors and other professionals.
  • Talk to your children regularly; young children especially need to understand the changes in their lives in ways that are seeable, touchable, and concrete.
  • Give children a say in the decisions that affect their lives based on their age and understanding; ensure that they feel heard, even though adults make all the final decisions.
  • Don’t badmouth the other parent in the presence of the children.
  • Don’t participate in the children’s angry feelings about the other parent.
  • Encourage the children to speak about any difficulties they are having with the other parent, but don’t pursue it at length; suggest other adults with whom the child might wish to confide.
  • Don’t ask the children about the other parent’s life or circumstances; respect the other parent’s privacy and give his or her motives the benefit of any doubt.
  • Don’t tell the children to keep secrets about you from the other parent.
  • Be the grown up.
  • Keep changes to a minimum for the first few years especially in regards to young children.
  • Never threatened to abandon your children.
  • Know and respond to danger signals in your children and get help as required.
  • Provide your children with structure and predictability.
  • Don’t lead your children to believe that you may reconcile with the other parent.
  • Calm your children’s fears and help rebuild trust and security.
  • Frequently reassure the children of your love and that you will always be there to care for them and look after their needs.

(Adapted from Therapeutic Family Mediation: Howard H Irving and Michael Benjamin: Sage Publications: 2002)