What’s the best way to co-parent after divorce or separation? - amicable’s top tips & complete guide

Originally published on 26th June 2019 at 5:34 PM
Reading time: 5 mins
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“Co-parenting” describes a parenting relationship in which the children’s parents share responsibility for bringing them up despite not being in a relationship with each other. It’s often held up as the ideal way to parent children following a separation or divorce.

My co-parenting story

I have two teenage boys with my ex-husband. They divide their time approximately 60/40 between our respective homes. Both my ex-husband and I are remarried, so they have stepparents at both houses and live in blended families.
They have a younger brother with their dad and step-mum, and older stepsiblings in my second husband’s grown-up children.

We have been divorced since our boys were very young. Over time, we have settled into a co-operative and successful pattern of co-parenting. It hasn’t been without its challenges of course, but our children are happy and settled. They have also learnt a great deal from watching the way we have worked together for their benefit. They’re very far from being the “damaged” children from a “broken home” that the media often portrays. I would go so far as to say that they have learnt many life lessons from watching us forge a path to successful co-parenting – including lessons in communication, compromise, compassion, and flexibility.

These are my 4 top tips from my experience to help you co-parent after your divorce or separation:

Have a joint vision

If you intend to co-parent with your ex, it helps to have a joint vision, and awareness of how you want your relationship to look and feel - not just now, but in 10- or 20-years’ time.

When you’re working together towards a common, defined goal, it helps to focus the mind on where you are headed. Keep that shared goal at the front of your minds in all your discussions and refer back to it. This long-term vision of your future relationship can keep you on track when things get a bit heated, or your ex does something that you don’t agree with. It encourages both you and your ex-partner to focus on your main objective, the children.

My ex and I agree that the emotional wellbeing of our children is paramount, and that we want our children to know that at their major life events, we will both be there for them. This shared goal informs our communication, whether that is by email, text, phone, or face to face.

Of course, it may not be possible to sit down and have this conversation with your ex.  If that is the case for you, then having your own personal vision can be just as powerful – take a look at my earlier blog on communication with your ex for some tips

Be consistent

When I was thinking about this blog, I asked my ex-husband what his top tip for successful co-parenting after separation was.

His reply: “Always back each other up in front of the children, even when you might not understand the reason behind a decision from the other house. Children need and value consistency from both parents.”

Just this morning, we have had a conversation about our younger son’s mobile phone usage. We’ve agreed on a consistent approach across both houses and a joint message that we will both give. On fundamental issues of parenting like mobile phones, internet usage, acceptable behaviours; we try our best to agree on a strategy.

What if you can’t agree on a strategy, or you have totally different approaches to parenting?

If we can’t agree on a strategy, and we agree to disagree, then I would say to our children that sometimes parents have different viewpoints. This would happen if their Dad and I were still married. Sometimes, what might be okay here isn’t okay at Dad’s, and vice versa. They can cope with different rules, as long as their Dad and I are consistent in our support of each other.

Keep the children out of any conflict between you

Research shows that divorce is most damaging for children when they are caught up in conflict between their parents. If you do have disagreements or arguments, avoid discussing those with the children, and don’t lean on them for emotional support.
Don’t ask them to take sides or use them to pass messages between you. Your children love you both, they don’t want to be caught in the middle, or to have to choose between you. There’s nothing more uncomfortable for a child than to hear his parents criticising each other in a way that they don’t understand.

Remember it’s about them, not you

In the beginning it was painful when I had to wave my boys off for a weekend with their Dad.  I was angry with him at first, as he had left very suddenly and was already in a relationship with a new partner.  It would have been easy to punish him for hurting me by being difficult about his time with our children.

My mantra at that time was that it’s about them, not me. They are 50% of both of us. Our children need and deserve a good relationship with both of us. Whatever I was feeling in the early days, I plastered a smile on my face as they drove off for time at their Dad’s. They didn’t need to see my pain or worry about me when they were away. They needed to be free to have a strong bond with us both.

I have always told our boys that it is important to me that they spend time with their Dad, and that they are happy there. 

When they are happy, I am happy. 

Even if co-parenting like this isn't possible in your situation - perhaps your ex is particularly difficult or there is too much conflict for you to talk - it is always possible to be the best parent you can be, and the best role model you can be for your children.


What’s the best way to co-parent after divorce?

There are several ways to improve co-parenting after divorce. These include keeping open communication, being consistent and respecting boundaries. Children should always be kept at the forefront.

What are the benefits of co-parenting after divorce or separation?

Co-parenting after separation can offer many benefits for both parents and children. These include a sense of stability for the children as they’re able to have a predictable schedule seeing both parents separately. Co-parenting can also provide an opportunity for parents to model healthy communication, conflict resolution, and cooperation, which can have a positive impact on their children's relationships and behaviours.

Is cooperative parenting following family separation possible?

Yes, cooperative parenting following family separation is not only possible but also highly beneficial for both the parents and the children involved. Cooperative parenting involves both parents working together in a collaborative and respectful manner to raise their children, despite the end of their romantic relationship. While it may require effort and commitment, cooperative parenting can lead to better outcomes for everyone involved.

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Co-parenting advice

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Sylvie Feltham
27.06.2019 16:04

I completely agree and deploy that strategy regularly beautifully written