It takes a lot of work for two parents to get to the point where they can say their co-parenting relationship is going really well.
For most families, there is still room for improvement. Rather than focusing on what’s not working, though, identify what is going well so that you can accentuate the positive as work toward resolving conflicts with your ex.
The following signs are evidence indicators of a healthy and productive co-parenting relationship.
As you read them, consider what already works for you, as well as those areas you hope to improve.
1. You Have Clear Boundaries
It’s much easier to work together as co-parents when you establish boundaries and recognize what you have control over—and what you don’t—regarding your children and your ex.2 For example, you cannot control who your ex dates or even whether they introduce that person to your children (unless it’s written into your custody agreement or parenting plan).
You can, however, control the example you’re setting for your kids when it comes to dealing with disappointments and setbacks.3
2. You Have a Predetermined Schedule
Parenting time transitions are more manageable for everyone involved when the schedule represents a solid, predetermined routine, rather than an iffy, “we’ll see” type of arrangement.
Parents who’ve reached a healthy level of communication know that they can count on the other parent to maintain his or her commitments unless something truly extraordinary requires a change in the routine.4
3. You Are Willing to Be Flexible
While routine is healthy, it’s also important to be flexible with one another.4 A healthy approach is to be as accommodating with your ex as you’d like them to be with you.
Even if you suspect that the same courtesy may not be returned to you, demonstrating the way you’d like things to be between you can be more effective than repeatedly telling them that the current arrangement isn’t working or displeases you.
4. You Defer to One Another for Child Care
This is another sign of a healthy co-parenting relationship. Parents who work well together and collaborate as parents will call one another before leaving the kids with a babysitter.4
Some families may write this intention into their parenting plan, but whether you take that formal step or not, it’s just common courtesy to ask your ex if they would be willing to take the kids rather than leaving them with a sitter.
5. You Basically Agree
No two parents are going to agree on each and every decision. However, co-parents who work together well for the sake of their kids have reached a basic level of agreement on the most important things—like issues pertaining to their children’s health, discipline, education, and spiritual upbringing.
In some cases, the use of a written parenting plan has helped co-parents reach this healthy level of communication.5
6. There Is No Effort to Manipulate
Parents who share a good, healthy co-parenting relationship do not attempt to manipulate one another or control their children’s allegiances.
They recognize that their children need to have relationships with both parents and that their children’s affection for the other parent is no personal threat to them.
7. You Talk to One Another About Schedule Changes
When last-minute changes are needed, parents who share a healthy co-parenting relationship make an effort to talk with one another first, before announcing any schedule changes to their children.
Some families find it helpful to include guidelines for handling schedule changes in their parenting plan, as well.