Co-parenting tips and tools for success

His, her, ours, theirs, oh my! Consider these tips for co-parenting to relieve stress.

Make your child's wellbeing number one. Photo credit: Pixabay.
Make your child's wellbeing number one. Photo credit: Pixabay.

Statistics about families who are co-parenting today are staggering. The Michigan State University Extension co-parenting curriculum, “Together We Can,” defines co-parenting as “both parents sharing the responsibility for raising and parenting their children.” This definition can include all adults who have child-rearing responsibilities including grandparents, foster parents, parent, boyfriend, girlfriend, significant other and step-parents, among others.

According to the Stepfamily Foundation, over 1,300 new step-families form each day. Over 50 percent of U.S. families are remarried or recoupled. One of every two marriages ends in divorce. Sixty-six percent of couples who live together or are remarried will break up when children are involved. The majority of American families have shifted from the original biologically connected mother, father and child. We are a nation in which majority of families are divorced, remarried or living together.

Families who share child-rearing with other adults are often referred to by titles that include step-family, blended family and co-parents. Regardless of the model, they all include the co-parenting, or cooperative parenting, of children. Co-parent or blended relationships can be messy and filled with stress; your stress and the other parent’s stress. Co-parenting should never turn into your child’s stress.

MSU Extension shares the following tips for co-parenting to relieve stress.

  • Make your child’s wellbeing number one. Don’t confuse this with giving in to your children or giving them whatever they want. Make your children a priority; even when you are stressed in a co-parenting relationship.
  • Be business-like. Treat your child’s other parent as if you are in a business relationship. Speak respectfully, listen as if your paycheck depends on it, and practice cooperation. Communicate directly if possible.
  • Treat your child like a child. Don’t put children in the middle of adult problems; don’t involve them in adult discussions. Don’t use a child as a spy to learn something.
  • Encourage your children’s relationships. Research is clear on the importance of having positive adults in the lives of children; the more the merrier.
  • Make exchanges and visits pleasant and happy. Meet in a non-threatening environment and make sure the child has what they need for the visit. Be flexible and remind yourself of the importance of all of these relationships to your child’s wellbeing.
  • Take a parenting class or explore professional counseling if your situation seems unmanageable. There are many classes available to assist with tips and tools to help you.

Your child’s family includes all of the people they love and those who love them. They are connected through a shared history and experience, and each of them play an important role in your life and in the lives of your children. Help your child better understand your current family situation by reading books about marriage, separation and divorce. Reading books about these topics can be a useful strategy for getting children to “open up” about their thoughts and feelings about the changes. Discuss how your family is the same or different and what is special about your child’s family.

For more articles on child development, academic success and parenting, please visit the MSU Extension website.

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