Families come in all shapes and sizes across the United States. Approximately 50 percent of American children will see their parents’ divorce or separate, and 16 percent of children live in a home with a step-parent, step-sibling, or half-sibling.
Does this sound like your family? If so, you know that coparenting requires a great deal of cooperation, communication, and planning. In addition to the typical logistical challenges that come with being a parent, coparenting involves coordinating schedules and navigating additional relationship dynamics. Further, blended families—those where parents have children from previous relationships, but all the members come together as one unit—may include different cultural or religious backgrounds, parenting styles, and conflicting personalities.
Proactive planning, positive communication, and staying focused on what’s best for the children can go a long way in preventing unnecessary stress and conflict. Successful coparenting can help parents ensure that they maintain strong relationships with their children, which has been linked to decreased behavior issues and increased self-esteem. Here are some practical coparenting tips and strategies fathers can use to support coparenting and supporting their children and families.
Tips & Best Practices
- Try to keep the lines of communication open. Whether between parents, parent and child, parent and caregiver, or caregiver and child, open communication is crucial to negotiating family roles and rules, strengthening relationships, and managing expectations. Effective communication between parents also helps ensure that they are consistent in parenting their child.
- Help children plan ahead. Whether visiting family or going to a different caregiver’s home, planning ahead with your child can ensure a smoother transition for you both. Make a packing list, understand how the handoff or visit will work, and share the plan with your child.
- Keep routines consistent. Whether it’s navigating who has the children during the holidays or school breaks, switching between households, or spending time with a step-parent or other relative, maintaining consistency can go a long way to help your child feel safe and secure.
- Make the most of your time together. Many parents don’t have unlimited time to spend with their children. Making the most of the time you do have together is what counts. Put away your phone, minimize distractions, and focus on using the time to strengthen your relationship.
Unfortunately, divorce can bring out the worst in us. The biggest obstacles to successful coparenting are emotions like anger, resentment, and jealousy. Those kinds of emotions make the challenge of coparenting with your ex more difficult. However, your children still need their mother and their father—whether they still live together or not. Here are five things to remember to help you successfully coparent together.
It is not about you…it is about your kids.
If the adults involved just remember that it is about the kids, there would not be near as many challenges. Commit to putting your children’s well-being ahead of any issues you may have with your ex. It takes maturity and dedication to let go of past wounds and bitterness, but it will make a difficult situation much easier. Also, encourage your children’s relationship with their new stepparent. Recognize that they are not your rival or replacement, but that you are all in this together in helping raise your children. Often it is easier said than done, but try your best anyway. Attitude and effort count.
What exactly is coparenting?
Coparenting is when parents who have separated or divorced continue to work together to raise their child or children. This may require a lot of communication, teamwork, and problem solving, but is worth it if it means increased stability for the child or children.
How can I talk with my child about separation and divorce?
While this is a difficult conversation, it’s also an important one. Depending on the age of your child or children, their reactions may range from confusion, to sadness, to anger. Be prepared to answer difficult questions honestly.
Are there resources I can turn to for help with positive coparenting and developing healthy relationships?
Yes! Check out these helpful tips for maintaining healthy relationships with your children. You may want to review information on conflict management, patience, and setting boundaries.