Co-parenting is not just about the kids.
Co-parenting is a term that most people don’t hear until they’re separating or divorcing. But the truth is that co-parenting is the ideal way to parent regardless of marital status. (Although, ideal doesn’t mean it will work best for you and your situation.) That’s because parents who raise their children this way agree on parenting decisions and choose to put their kids’ needs first.
At first blush, this definition of co-parenting makes it seem like the kids are the only beneficiaries. And there are definitely a lot of benefits for children whose parents co-parent. Among them are:
- Increased sense of security and self-worth. Kids who are co-parented know they can rely on both Mom and Dad to have their best interests at heart and to be consistent in their parenting decisions. This increased sense of security also translates to the children feeling loved and important.
- Decreased stress, anxiety and guilt at each of their homes. When kids know that their parents are working together to raise them, they don’t have to worry about Dad or Mom. They are free to simply be kids.
- Decreased stress and anxiety outside of the home. When children can trust their parents to present a united front to their teachers, coaches and babysitters, they can stop worrying about which of their parents will be interacting with these other important adults in their lives.
- Exposure to respectful problem solving. When Mom and Dad choose to co-parent, they are also choosing to resolve conflicts in a respectful manner. This choice allows children, who are watching their parents carefully for clues on how adults behave, to learn the skill of diplomacy in relationships.
- Improved communication and relationships with both parents. When Dad and Mom share in parenting responsibilities the opportunities for the kids to spend quality time with each of their parents increases dramatically. And this quality time naturally leads to conversations and relationship building.
But co-parenting isn’t just about the kids, it also benefits the parents in some pretty profound ways.
- Breaks from parenting. When a couple chooses to co-parent, then they have confidence that their children’s other parent will be doing a comparable job with the children. This reduces stress and worry and allows the off parent to relax. These breaks are especially important during separation and divorce because they give each parent alone time to heal and have adult time without worrying about their kids.
- Reduced conflicts about parenting. Co-parenting requires that parents get on the same page about how they will raise their children. It also necessitates that the parents will continue to discuss parenting issues as they arise so they can continue being on the same page. This agreement and focus on growing the agreement as their children grow dramatically decreases arguments about parenting even when the parents are separated or divorced.
- Emotional support. When parents choose to co-parent, they will naturally be there for each other when challenges arise in raising their children.
The extended family also benefits when parents choose co-parenting.
Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins also benefit when separated or divorced parents choose co-parenting over parallel parenting because co-parenting eliminates any fears the children may have about spending time with them. And when kids aren’t afraid of how interacting with their extended family might impact their relationships with their parents, they’re free to have rich relationships with their whole family despite their parents’ divorce.
These benefits of co-parenting make it sound like it’s a no-brainer of a choice. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes there are complications that prevent co-parenting from being a viable choice. Issues such as addictions, criminal backgrounds, violence, restraining orders, abuse, neglect and abandonment make co-parenting challenging at best and impossible at worst.
And even if you and your children’s other parent choose co-parenting as the parenting style you’ll use during your separation and divorce, that doesn’t mean it will be easy. You’ll need to develop a means of putting your adult concerns to the side so you can be the co-parents your children, you, their other parent, and your extended families deserve.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are looking for advice and support about co-parenting. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
Looking for more co-parenting tips? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Coparenting.