Co-Parenting

What is co-parenting?

Co-parenting involves the active cooperation of both parents in raising children. This should be the goal for all parents, whether the family is intact physically or separated through divorce. Healthy co-parenting is achieved by expressing respect for each parents’ rights and cooperating in the establishment of rules, boundaries, and consequences.

Is co-parenting really effective?

Poor co-parenting can affect children throughout their lifetime. Though each parent may establish different rules for their own household both parents need to respect the right of the other to do so. This is also demonstrated by a parent referring all complaints that a child has as to the other parent. Specifically, exposure to chronic conflict between parents can affect children’s mental health up to and including adulthood.  Though each parent establishes rules for their own household, both parents respect and honor the rules of the other household and continue the same sanctions that were established by each parent. When a child complains about the rules in one household, the parent of the other household tells the child to take that up with the other parent.

What does co-parenting really mean?

At its best, co-parenting is a collaborative process in which each parent consults with the other on a regular basis to determine what is in the best interest of the child. This includes timely collaboration in all major areas of the children’s life including health, education, and extracurricular activities.

How to have a healthy co-parenting relationship?

Effective co-parenting also requires flexibility and accommodating to both parents schedules so as to ensure that the child does not miss important events.

A recent experience

In a recent seminar, I attended, Dr. Michael Saini, an associate professor of the University of Toronto, emphasized the growing importance of the construct of co-parenting to Family Law in both research and clinical applications. He points out that in 2019 there were 323 articles on this topic published in peer-reviewed journals. The two most prominent journals on this topic are the Journal of Family Psychology, 53 articles in 2019, and the Journal of Child and Family Studies, 44 articles in 2019. Dr. Saini defines co-parenting as “a construct decoupled from gender role and family structure referring to negotiated activities and relational aspects of two care-givers working together to raise a child”. (Saini et al 2019,) the Journal of Child and Family Studies, page 392. Thus, co-parenting occurs in a variety of social relationships unbound by, but including traditional relationships.

The quality of co-parenting affects the well-being of the child in his/her adaptation to changing parental relationships. Positive co-parenting reduces conflict, and increases the likelihood of father engagement. It is also essential for improving parent-child relationships and therefore, the future adjustment of children. There are a variety of co-parenting interventions available including one that is web- based (see Doss et al 2019, Journal of Family Psychology, in press).

Finally, Dr. Saini points out that improving co-parenting is important because it is modifiable, valuable to both mother and father, non-controversial, and related to positive parent relationships and child present and future adaptations.

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