5 Traits of Healthy Co-Parenting

Father carries laughing daughter over his shoulder while playing outside

As spring approaches and our New Year’s resolutions are either firmly in place or firmly in our rearview mirrors, now is the perfect time to refocus our efforts on the health of our co-parenting. So how can you tell when your co-parenting communication is at its strongest? Most parents are already keenly aware of the state of their communication, but they may have a hard time identifying healthy versus unhealthy characteristics. If you can’t identify which aspects of your communication need work, improvement efforts will feel unfocused and unproductive.

What classifies as a healthy co-parenting relationship will be decided by individual circumstances in the end. Nevertheless, here are 5 common traits of healthy co-parenting to get you thinking about the state of your own shared parenting.

Mistakes Do Not Derail Co-Parenting Efforts

Mistakes, miscommunications, and disagreements are a reality of parenting, regardless of any relationship status. With co-parenting, if the right systems aren’t in place, mishaps can completely derail positive communication efforts. Once derailed, it can be easier to focus on the mistake rather than searching for a solution.

Honest mistakes should never be taken as an opportunity to ‘keep score’ between co-parents. Doing so turns co-parenting into a competition focused on getting even rather than a collaborative effort that’s focused on raising happy and healthy children. Approaching co-parenting in this way not only harms communication, it can also be a detriment to your own happiness and well-being.

To stay on track despite the inevitable bumps in the road, make sure you have a comprehensive parenting plan in place and that you have ready access to consult it when necessary.

Adult Responsibilities Are Kept Between Parents

Healthy communication means that children are never responsible for facilitating the dialogue between co-parents. Having an organised system of communication, so no details have to be relayed through your children, is one of the first steps toward mastering healthy co-parenting.

Additionally, children should never overhear parenting disagreements between you and your co-parent. If your children are with you, it is a good rule of thumb to assume they can always hear you. You and your co-parent are central figures in their lives, so it makes sense that they want to know what you’re talking about. Whether they’re standing right in front of you or are in the other room with headphones securely in ears, never make the assumption that they aren’t listening.

Communication With Children At The Centre

Feelings can be easily bruised during the divorce or separation process. When feelings are hurt, it’s tempting to turn our attention inward, focusing on soothing our own pain. Healthy co-parenting, however, necessitates that parents turn that focus outward and toward their children, keeping their happiness and health at the centre of their efforts. Co-parenting can undoubtedly become a frustrating affair. Keep your motivations focused on the needs of your children, and making sound co-parenting choices will be simplified.

Respect Is Non-Negotiable

While some healthy traits of co-parenting will differ from family to family, this one will remain constant and non-negotiable. Respect is a trait of every healthy family dynamic, and parenting after a divorce or separation is no different.

Respect between co-parents concerns a whole host of interactions and responsibilities. It will mean being prompt with relaying important details and respecting your co-parent’s time, which includes keeping last-minute changes to an absolute minimum. Respect also requires keeping the content of your messages and conversations polite and on topic. And when not speaking with each other directly, co-parents must keep their language regarding each other respectful in front of their children as well, meaning absolutely no bad-mouthing.

Respect in a co-parenting relationship not only benefits the mental and emotional health of parents but also creates a safe and stable environment in which children can truly thrive.

‘Still A Family’ Mindset

This last trait of healthy co-parenting does not stand alone but is a feature and function of almost every other trait. Keeping this mantra firmly in mind can provide great motivation for remaining on track with co-parenting efforts. ‘Still A Family’ emphasises your co-parent’s role as your child’s parent, rather than as your former spouse or significant other, an important distinction that helps form a firm foundation for your communication.

Healthy co-parenting does not necessitate perfection. Being co-parents is a lifetime appointment and disagreements and mistakes are inevitably going to occur through the years. Attending to the health of your co-parenting communication, however, ensures that you have a strong foundation to withstand any rough patches.