How to Be a Good Co-Parent

Avoiding negative talk about your ex supports successful co-parenting.

Sharing parenting duties with your ex requires communication and sometimes compromise even if you aren't friends. Your child can benefit from a co-parenting situation if both parents take a healthy approach of supporting one another. Your child is better able to have his needs met -- both physically and emotionally -- when both parents work together. The courts may require you to co-parent, but you have the power to make the best of the situation to provide your child with stability and love during a time of change.

Focus your energy on your child and his needs, pushing aside any anger you may have toward your ex.

Set rules for things like how parenting decisions are made, when permission is needed from the other parent, how you will communicate and how emergencies are handled. Decide on basic parenting topics, such as curfews, health care, education, activities kids are involved in and discipline. If both parents understand what is expected in these areas, you are better able to work together to raise your child.

Communicate directly with your co-parent instead of asking your child to relay messages. This puts your child in the middle and may result in inaccurate communication. If you can't talk to your ex in person, try email messages or a neutral adult who can accurately pass on the messages.

Discuss significant decisions or disagreements with your ex when your children aren't around, to protect them from hearing potential arguments. You are also better able to discuss the situation when your child cannot hear what is being said.

Keep your feelings about your ex to yourself, especially if the feelings are negative. Don't try to get information about your ex from your child.

Stick with the custody schedule as much as possible to give your child stability. If you know of a conflict, work out new arrangements with your ex right away.

Become actively involved with your child to maximize your time. Go to the park, help with her homework, read to her or play a game of basketball in the backyard. Avoid trying to outdo your ex by buying your child lots of toys or taking him places you wouldn't normally go. He would rather have your time and attention than your money.

Seek outside help as needed if co-parenting isn't working well. If your ex isn't sticking with the visitation schedule or keeps you from your appointed custody time, contact your lawyer for possible legal actions. If you can't agree on decisions about your child, seek help from a counselor or a professional mediator.