To minimise the effects of divorce or separation on children it's important to work hard at sharing the parenting with your ex partner - whether you're in a new relationship or not. Individuals ‘co-parent’ in different ways and for different reasons. If the ‘split’ has been amicable it may be easier to communicate with your ex-partner, however if the split was associated with a lot of animosity, working together may seem more a remote possibility.

Using a sliding scale to measure your relationship

It’s useful to think about co-parenting on a ‘scale’ or ‘slide’, with working co-operatively with your ex at one extreme and working completely independently at the other. However, most co-parents move up and down the slide over time. There may be times when direct communication is going well, however something happens that changes things (such as a new partner) and communication breaks down. In these circumstances you should consciously consider moving down the scale toward more separate parenting, perhaps using written communication or a mediator until things improve.

Keep out the emotion

Co-parenting relationships work best if the parents are businesslike and courteous with each other, rather than emotionally involved. This is critical for new relationships and marriages that can be negatively affected when previous partners are too attached and engaged with each other. Boundaries for the relationship are really important.

Separate or parallel parenting

Most parents have to resort to this type of co-parenting at some point in their relationship. Typical behaviours include.....

- Little or no face to face or direct contact
- Everything in writing
- Neutral locations
- Communication is limited to essential facts
This type of co-parenting is by its nature very distant. Both parents continue parenting their child or children but with little communication between them. Everything tends to be quite formal, with communication limited to email or text. Conversations tend to be limited, usually because in the past these have escalated into full blown rows. The parents are generally frightened to move from this position as they worry about greater conflict, however, generally this position becomes less formal over time as emotions become less intense and gradually trust builds.
How to build co-parenting skills
1. Acknowledge the children's need for a relationship with the other biological parent
2. Find something you respect about your ex and say it!
3. Use non judgemental, neutral language when talking about them. Don't be tempted to criticise them in from of the children.
4. Make allowances for different parenting styles - yours is not the only way!
5. Find solutions and compromises - don't try and win
6. Don't expect perfection - learn to live with things, even though you might wish you could change them
7. Know when to call a break and move to separate or independent parenting for a while
8. Be flexible
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