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Common Co-Parenting Rules

Here are some common co-parenting rules to help you raise happy, healthy children.

Co-Parenting ground rules

If you are committed to co-parenting successfully, think of it as if you and your co-parent are a team in the game of raising a happy, healthy child. A team only wins if its players work together.

Vince Lombardi, widely regarded as one of the greatest sports coaches of all time, said it best: “People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses or the problems of modern society.”

Rules exist to keep everyone on the team on the same page, moving toward the same common goal. It should be no different in a co-parenting relationship. Here are some common co-parenting rules that can help both parents win:

Rule #1: Have a unanimous focus

Research overwhelmingly shows that having two loving parents who are actively involved in the lives of their children, no matter what their marital status, is the number one predictor of success for children.

Raising happy, healthy children should be you and your co-parent’s common goal and why you follow the rules of the game. If you are divorced, it no longer matters why the marriage didn’t work or whose fault it was. You and your co-parent's unanimous focus is on the kids you share and what is in their best interests.

create an effective parenting plan to avoid conflicts

Rule #2: Have a plan

No team has ever won a game without a plan. A plan helps each player know what he or she needs to do to make sure the team achieves its goals. This is why co-parents should make a parenting plan.

A parenting plan is a child custody agreement that is negotiated by the parents and approved by the court. It sets clear guidelines and expectations for each parent about living arrangements, childcare, pick-up and drop-off routines, extracurricular activities, education, healthcare decisions, and more. Learn more about how to make a parenting plan.

Rule #3: Communicate

When it comes to your child, co-parents have schedules to address, academic reports to share, behavioral issues to discuss, healthcare issues to review, and so much more. If your relationship allows, you and your co-parent should decide how you will communicate about important topics regarding your kids. Is it through a scheduled phone call? Is it in the presence of a mediator? Is it through a co-parenting communication service like TalkingParents?

TalkingParents allows you and your co-parent to engage in secure and accountable communication at all times. Features like Secure Messaging Accountable Calling, the Shared Calendar and Accountable Payments make it easy for both parents to coordinate in one place. TalkingParents not only streamlines all communications between co-parents but keeps everything on an Unalterable Record as well.

How you and your co-parent choose to handle last-minute schedule changes is an especially important topic when it comes to communication. Last-minute changes, interruptions, and complications are a part of life, but they take on new significance when they interrupt a co-parent’s scheduled time with their child. It is important for co-parents to be sensitive to this and address last-minute changes with care.

Rule #4: Be consistent

Co-parents should strive for consistency between households. This is an incredibly common and beneficial co-parenting rule. Children thrive on routines and feel much more secure when they know what to expect. It is important for you and your co-parent to work together to establish as much consistency in your child’s schedule and routines as possible.

Maintaining consistency in areas such as bedtime rituals, wake-up routines, homework schedules, mealtimes, screen time rules, consequences of misbehavior, and how and when transitions between households take place is extremely beneficial for children.


showing mutual respect allows for a low-conflict co-parenting agreement

Rule #5: Show respect

This one is critical. Toxic fighting between parents – name-calling, insults, threats, physical aggression, walking out – dramatically impact a child’s mental health. This can result in everything from decreased cognitive performance, to physical sickness, to high rates of substance abuse and eating disorders.

It is important for you and your co-parent to agree that you will not disparage one another in front of the kids, you will not allow other family members or friends to disparage your co-parent in front of the kids, and you will not allow your children to speak disrespectfully about one another.

Belittling or insulting your co-parent can sometimes happen subtly and without intention, so be aware of some common ways you may not be showing respect:

  • Always refer to your child’s other parent as his or her “mother” or “father” in conversation, not “my ex.”
  • Don’t ignore your co-parent at school meetings or sporting events or sit on opposite sides of the room.
  • Don’t use your children as messengers to pass information back and forth between you and your co-parent, and that includes putting notes in their bags.
  • Don’t use your children as spies, questioning them about your co-parent’s personal life or activities they are involved in.
  • Don’t interrupt time between your child and co-parent by showing up unexpectedly to pick them up or scheduling outings during scheduled visitation times.

Following these common co-parenting rules will help both parents win. Setting some guidelines and boundaries in your co-parenting relationship will help your children succeed, which is a win for both parents. Putting some of these common rules in place is a great way to start.

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