Strategies for Successful Co-Parenting

Mom and Dad working together while taking care of their infant

The road of parenting brings with it many joys, but also is full of the unexpected. There are twists, turns, and surprises around every corner. If you share parenting with a partner, open communication and frequent planned collaboration can help you mitigate some of these bumps along the way. Planning takes time, but it is key to smooth and effective co-parenting, especially when divorce is involved or when parents live in separate locations. Two areas to plan for in particular: scheduling and setting (and following through with) expectations for your child.

Co-Parenting Tips for Scheduling Success

Modern life is busy. Despite best intentions, our schedules fill up and frequently change. The best way to handle a last-minute delay is to have a strong base. Regular planning with your partner is a great way to build that strong foundation.

Some ideas for scheduling success include:

  • Creating a shared system or master calendar to track and view each family member’s schedule. With the change of each season or start of a new school year, insert all of the planned activities and events into your family calendar.
  • Picking a day each week for you and your partner to confirm the details of the upcoming week and plan for any changes that have emerged.
  • For children who cannot read, every morning reviewing a few key points for the day with your child. For example, “Today mom is picking you up.” Or “After school we will go to granddad’s house for dinner.”
  • For children who can read, sharing printed copies with your child each week so she knows what to expect for the upcoming week. It is also helpful to review the calendar together each day before your child heads out to school.
  • Holding regular family meetings to discuss strategies to tackle last-minute changes.

Advance planning will not only support successful co-parenting, but it will also help your child. Knowing the plan beforehand will help your child feel more secure to set out for the day with confidence and weather last-minute changes more smoothly.

Co-Parenting Strategies for Setting Expectations Together

Collaboration is essential to ensure both you and your parenting partner agree on clear and consistent expectations, even if you have different parenting styles. Children respond best when they are aware of the expectations set by their parents and feel secure knowing that their parents will be consistent in their implementation of these.

Some ideas for setting expectations together include:

  • Spending time together discussing each of your parenting priorities, whether it’s a weekly phone call or a monthly meeting over coffee. What matters most to each of you? Also discuss how you will you handle differing expectations. To the best of your abilities, come to some agreement before situations arise.
  • Creating a joint strategy in advance of handling upcoming common developmental milestones. For example:
    o How will you handle toilet learning?
    o When you do think the right age is to help a child wean themselves from a pacifier? And how?
    o For children in elementary school, where and when homework will be completed?
  • To the best of your ability, following through on all expectations—including the ones set by your partner. As children are old enough, it is important that together you share expectations with your child.
  • Respecting your partner’s decisions and do not change a decision without discussion with your partner.
  • Reflecting with your partner to discuss how you both have handled recent situations to see what works best, and discuss together what, if anything, you change or adjust.

But don’t worry if you find yourself in a situation where the unexpected happens and you want to change your mind about the way you handled a situation. As long as you demonstrate to your child that you and your partner are a team, there are many ways to make changes to an expectation or decision. Sometimes the best method is to say, “We discussed what happened yesterday and together we decided that we would like to adjust how to handle this.”

When children see their parents as partners, whether on the calendar or through shared expectations, it fosters a sense of security that allows for confidence in their long-term growth and development.

WEBINAR: Getting to Know Your Parenting Style

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Bright Horizons
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Mom and Dad working together while taking care of their infant