It takes a lot of work for two parents to get to the point where they can say their coparenting relationship is actually going really well. For most families, there is much 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 coparenting relationship. As you read them, consider what already works for you, as well as those areas you hope to improve:
1. Clear BoundariesIt’s much easier to work together as coparents when you establish boundaries and recognize what you have control over – and what you don’t – regarding your children and your ex. For example, you cannot control who your ex dates, or even whether he or she introduces 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.
2. Predetermined ScheduleParenting 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.
3. Willingness to Be FlexibleWhile routine is healthy, it’s also important to be flexible with one another. A healthy approach is to be as accommodating with your ex as you’d like him or her 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 him or her that the current arrangement isn’t working or displeases you.
4. Defer to One Another for Child CareThis is another sign of a healthy coparenting relationship. Parents who work well together and collaborate as parents will call one another before leaving the kids with a babysitter. Some families actually write this intention in to their parenting plan, but whether you take that formal step or not, it’s just common courtesy to ask your ex if he or she would be willing to take the kids rather than leaving them with a sitter.
5. Basically AgreeNo two parents are going to agree on each and every decision. However, coparents 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, education, and spiritual upbringing. In some cases, the use of a written parenting plan has helped coparents reach this healthy level of communication.
6. No Effort to ManipulateParents who share a good, healthy coparenting 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. Talk to One Another About Schedule ChangesWhen last minute changes are needed, parents who share a healthy coparenting relationship make an effort to talk with one another first, before announcing schedule changes to the children. Some families find it helpful to include guidelines for handling schedule changes in their parenting plan, as well.
8. Their Children Think They Get Along Pretty WellGenerally, the kids of coparents who work well together believe that their parents get along. This doesn’t mean that they necessarily agree on everything or even like one another, but they do show respect to each other in front of their children, and they’ve learned how to communicate in ways that minimize conflict.
9. Are Able to Attend School and Extra-Curricular Events Without TensionHaving no problem attending school meetings, sporting events, and recitals when the other parent is present is another sign of an effective coparenting relationship. These parents choose to put their children first, and worries about what “others” think last.
10. Recognize Each Other as Significant Influences in Their Kids’ Lives
Coparents who share a healthy relationship are also well aware of how important they both are to their children. They’ve worked hard to get to the point where they can work well with each other, because they value their children’s opportunity to know and spend time with the other parent, and even though it’s hard sometimes, they wouldn't have it any other way.