Skip to main content

Mindful Co-Parenting Tips

Feb 26, 2021 ● By Leah D. Setzen
Mom and Dad playing with their young daughter

Photo Credit Andrea Piacquadio for Pexels

As the weather gets warmer and families start to come out of hibernation, concerns naturally arise for divorcing and divorced parents about how to navigate parenting separately but together for upcoming holidays, school events and summer.

Studies abound that show the best indicator of well-adjusted children of divorce is having parents that cooperate with each other without conflict. A recent study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that children of high-conflict families fare worse than children in low-conflict families, and post-divorce conflict has a strong influence on children’s adjustment.

For separated or divorced parents that want their children to be well-adjusted, there are several important ways to successfully co-parent.

Display a unified front: Whether parents are married, separated or divorced, children may try to pit one against the other. When parents live in different homes and do not consult with each other about parenting issues, the opportunity is ripe for children to “game” them. In these situations, the best course of action is to touch base with the other parent first before making a decision. The same goes for punishment. A punishment lacks effectiveness if it is not enforced in both homes, and disparate enforcement only reinforces to the child that parents can be played against each other.

Communicate with the other parent—but quality matters more than quantity: The most successful co-parenting involves knowing when to involve the other parent and when to take a step back and not micromanage. There are many online tools and apps that can be used for parental communication, even when it may be difficult to have in-person or telephone conversations. Many courts will order divorced parents to use these tools, which also have features such as shared calendars and uploading capability for receipts for reimbursement. But inundating the other parent with multiple messages per day may wind up having a chilling effect on communication. The best way to communicate is to consider it a business relationship and keep the information brief and fact-based, omitting emotion from the communication and focusing on the child’s needs.

Avoid conflict with the other parent:

According to a study by the University of California, Berkeley, ongoing conflict between divorced parents is extremely detrimental to the children, particularly when the children have frequent access to both parents that are hostile and uncooperative with each other. Children should not be used as messengers between the parents. While the romantic relationship with the other parent may be over, the parental relationship lasts a lifetime. Treating the other parent with respect, even during a disagreement, will pay dividends down the road.

Don’t speak negatively about the other parent to or in front of the children:

Parents do not always appreciate that children are always listening and observing them. Consistently badmouthing the other parent to the children can have long-term negative effects, and may morph into parental alienation, which, according to Psychology Today, is when one parent “programs” a child to denigrate the other parent in order to undermine and interfere with the child’s relationship with the other parent. Not only does this denigration result in the child’s emotional rejection of the targeted parent, but the alienation has the potential to result in a court modifying parenting issues and transferring physical custody of the child to the alienating parent.

The best way to successfully co-parent children is to remember that parenting is a team sport. Treating team members with respect and consideration is an investment in children’s good mental health and adjustment for years to come.

Leah D. Setzen is a writer, community activist and award-winning, family law attorney at Grunyk Family Law, in Naperville. Connect at