Back to top

Did you know that unless you're a single parent, you're co-parenting?

December 20, 2010
  • If you're living with a spouse (and kids) under one roof, you're co-parenting.
  • If you're divorced and both you and your ex are involved in the children's lives, you're co-parenting.
  • IIf you're raising a child together with someone you may never have been married to — whether you're living together or apart — you're co-parenting.

Research out of Ohio State University found that supportive co-parenting contributed to children being better able to regulate their behavior — to handle frustration and disappointment more successfully. Supportive co-parenting also seemed to have a positive impact on children's ability to pay attention.

Does "supportive co-parenting" mean we always have to agree? Luckily, the answer is no. But it does mean this:

  • Figure out where you and your co-parent each stand on matters that arise with the children, and try to come to agreement on how those matters will be handled. (Have your discussions out of the kids' earshot; they don't need to overhear your debates.)
  • Talk to (or email) each other directly. Children should never be placed in the role of messenger between the two of you when the message is part of a dispute or debate.
  • Where you can't agree, determine a method that prevents a stand-off. For instance, you might sometimes flip a coin. ("You want to buy her another blouse, and I don't think she needs another blouse. How about we flip a coin this time?") Or you might take turns. ("This time, let's do it my way, and the next time, let's do it your way.")
  • Never disparage your co-parent's thinking in front of the children. At the same time, you don't have to keep secret the fact that your viewpoints may differ. What the kids need is to see that you've worked out a way to get behind one another. Your kids should hear you say something like this: "I may not agree with your mother, but I'm going to support her position on this and I expect you to go along with it."

It's no secret to children that adults don't all think alike, don't all have the same values and perspectives. Children can tolerate their parents' differences so long as they witness mutual cooperation and respect, and a united voice that says, "We've agreed on how this needs to be handled."

And so for the kids' sake, find a way to agree — knowing that sometimes it will mean it's your turn to compromise.