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What Is Co-Parenting?

Co-parenting is raising your kids as a team after a divorce. Learn a co-parenting definition, benefits and difficulties on HealthyPlace.

Co-parenting is an intentional, well-planned agreement between two parents who no longer live together in order to provide their children with consistent love, stability, and security. Co-parenting can happen after a couple separates or divorces. Both parties agree to put the wellbeing of their children above all else, including their own discord. Essentially, co-parenting involves divorced parents working as a team to raise happy, healthy kids. Let’s look further into co-parenting: what it is as well as pros and cons.

The Heart of Co-Parenting

After a divorce, a couple can choose to co-parent their children. Despite the feelings and circumstances that led to their divorce, parents come together to unite as a team in order to positively raise their children. Co-parenting means that kids are left completely out of differences and disputes between their parents.

In such an arrangement, kids can have an equal relationship with both parents. Living arrangements are stable and created to allow both parents to be with their children equally (or close to equally).

Mothers and fathers who co-parent mutually agree upon discipline methods, and they each promise to follow the plan they established. Done well, co-parenting provides children with a stable routine, peaceful environments, and an opportunity to thrive as they grow. This is perhaps the best co-parenting definition of all.

Benefits of Co-Parenting

Co-parenting is an arrangement made and followed for the benefit of the former couple’s children. Kids drive the decision and the details of the arrangements, but the adults benefit as well. Because co-parenting requires healthy, open communication, as well as parents keeping their own emotions out of the arrangement and their parenting, moms and dads, grow, too. They learn that they can have differences but still show respect. Too, they learn to put their differences aside for a greater purpose—the wellbeing of their kids.

Kids do indeed thrive in an open, civil co-parenting situation. The many benefits for kids who are raised by two separated parents who act as unified parents include:

  • Reduced likelihood of developing mental health problems like anxiety, depression, and self-esteem issues (Calleia, 2014)
  • The ability to bond with both parents and have a strong relationship with each without feeling guilt, stress, or anxiety
  • Stability, security, and routine thanks to parents who planned carefully and facilitate smooth transitions between homes
  • The opportunity to see healthy communication and problem-solving modeled, important life skills
  • The opportunity to grow up with more cooperation than conflict

There are indeed multiple benefits for kids when their divorced parents cooperate and co-parent. This does not mean, though, that co-parenting is easy or smooth.

Difficulties of Co-Parenting

In establishing co-parenting arrangements, two divorced parents who have decided that they can’t maintain a loving relationship and that they might not even like each other anymore must put differences aside and create a parenting plan that is good for their kids. Given the rocky nature of this adult relationship, deciding to co-parent presents challenges.

Co-parenting requires open communication, patience, and understanding. These are not traits that typically characterize divorced parents. Therefore, the challenges of co-parenting involve:

  • Communicating regularly and positively with someone you don’t like, and doing it civilly.
  • Dealing with problems caused when one parent criticizes the other in front of the kids
  • Negative emotions getting in the way of your interactions with your ex-spouse
  • High degrees of stress over co-parenting with the person who hurt you or whom you hurt
  • Despite agreeing on and following a parenting plan, both parents have different parenting styles and parenting goals—irksome to the parents and confusing and possibly damaging to your children

These are inherent difficulties in a co-parenting arrangement. You don’t have to give up co-parenting, however. You can make your arrangement, and your ex-partner, easier to deal with.

Pulling Co-Parenting Off: A Business Arrangement

When you and your co-parent approach each other like business partners, it becomes easier to put emotions aside and communicate, arrange, and regularly discuss how your kids are doing. Business partners behave in certain ways to be successful. They:

  • Engage in civil, productive communication
  • Hold meetings to discuss progress, problems, and successes
  • Don’t criticize each other to their coworkers
  • Are organized and use a shared communication and scheduling program
  • Work toward a common goal

Business partners have a purpose, and they put differences aside for the sake of fulfilling their purpose. For co-parents, this purpose is their kids. Parenting after divorce is hard, but when moms and dads have their kids’ best interests at heart and decide to share parenting to provide their kids with comfort, stability, and unconditional love, they raise kids who are emotionally healthy and can thrive as children, adolescents, and adults.

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article references

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2019, July 7). What Is Co-Parenting?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 16 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/co-parenting/what-is-co-parenting

Last Updated: August 8, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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