Once you have a perspective on your Co-parenting relationship, you can now begin to propose doing the five tasks that successful co-parents do:
- Share information,
- Build in flexibility in the custody schedule and create easy access between the parents and the children,
- Coordinate the two homes to be similar,
- Plan child-friendly transitions from home to home,
- Solve problems and make decisions together.
Communication in the co-parenting relationship is the foundation for success, but is a bit emotionally complicated. Because of this, we have written two Blog Series specifically addressing communication: “Communication in a Successful Co-parenting Relationship,” and “Taking Action: Becoming an Expert Problem Solver.” We strongly recommend that you read those blog series before putting them in action.
Flexibility and easy access is as simple as:
- Providing easy telephone access from parents to children and children to parents. This does not have to be completely open. There can be rules to prevent disruptions in each other’s homes. For example, a rule might be no calls after 8:00 p.m.
- Designing procedures for the parents to arrange time with, or without, the children with one another. A positive tit-for-tat approach is the most successful, that is, saying “yes” to a request unless really impossible. If the request is for a large amount of time, such as a full weekend, it usually works best to have a switch, a make-up weekend.
- Designing procedures for the children to request access to the other parent off schedule.
Coordinating homes is always a work in progress
- Coordinating homes is based on making transitions easier and also teaching kids useful lessons. This should include rules, chores and responsibilities, school expectations and routines. Parents literally decide to make both homes as similar as possible (e.g., the same bedtimes). Because all of these steps change regularly because children get older or other circumstances change, successful co-parents regularly contact one another to discuss proposed changes. Remember, one of the most important parenting responsibilities is teaching children skills that will help them be successful as adults.
- This is accomplished with rules, clear and high expectations, responsibilities and routines.
Child friendly transitions are important trigger points
Not only are their practical reasons for transitions to have a completely child oriented focus, there are deep needs for children to transition from one parent to another. They experience core feelings of loss and reunion, that is, losing one parent at least for a while and reuniting with the other parent that they have not seen for a while. Planning child friendly transitions includes parents being amicable and sharing any information that needs sharing to give the receiving parent a heads-up, spending a few moments in the presence of one another to give the child a chance to say “goodbye” and greet the other parent, having a clear understanding of whether or not the child can invite the other parent into the home, never discussing a problem or decision at that time, having an easy procedure in place for getting clothing, sports equipment, schoolwork and so on back and forth and greeting anyone else in the other home (e.g., a stepparent). It also pays to ask children what is hard about transitions and see if there is a way to improve that.
You might benefit from reading the communication blog series and the taking action blog series next to have a complete understanding of how to have a successful co-parenting relationship.