10 Signs of a Healthy, Effective Co-Parenting Relationship

It takes a lot of work for two parents to get to the point where they can say their co-parenting relationship is going really well. For most families, there is still 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 co-parenting relationship. As you read them, consider what already works for you, as well as those areas you hope to improve.

1

Have Clear Boundaries

Young child holding man and woman's hands

 PhotoAlto / Odilon Dimier / Getty Images

It’s much easier to work together as co-parents 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 they introduce 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

Have a Predetermined Schedule

Woman writing on a wall calendar

 Alan Shortall / Getty Images

Parenting 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

Willing to Be Flexible

Young dad making phone call and looking after toddler girl

Richard Drury / Getty Images

While 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 them 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 them that the current arrangement isn’t working or displeases you.

4

Defer to One Another

Man talking on cell phone, looking out window

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This is another sign of a healthy co-parenting relationship. Parents who work well together and collaborate as parents will call one another before leaving the kids with a babysitter.

Some families may write this intention into their parenting plan, but whether you take that formal step or not, it’s just common courtesy to ask your ex if they would be willing to take the kids rather than leaving them with a sitter.

5

You Basically Agree

Couple talking in kitchen

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No two parents are going to agree on each and every decision. However, co-parents 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, discipline, education, and spiritual upbringing.

In some cases, the use of a written parenting plan has helped co-parents reach this healthy level of communication.

6

Don't Engage in Manipulation

Mother crouching down to talk to young boy on sidewalk

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Parents who share a good, healthy co-parenting 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 Changes

Woman using smartphone with a child standing between her legs

MoMo Productions / Getty Images

When last-minute changes are needed, parents who share a healthy co-parenting relationship make an effort to talk with one another first, before announcing any schedule changes to their children. Some families find it helpful to include guidelines for handling schedule changes in their parenting plan, as well.

8

Children Think You Get Along Well

Young girl making pizza with adults in kitchen

Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

Generally, the kids of co-parents who work well together believe that their parents get along. This doesn’t mean that they necessarily agree on everything or always like one another, but they do make a concerted effort to show respect to each other in front of their children. They have also learned how to effectively communicate in ways that minimize conflict.

9

Attend Events Without Tension

Man interacting with women in a school library

Steve Debenport / Getty Images

Having no problem attending school meetings, sporting events, and recitals when the other parent is present is another sign of an effective co-parenting relationship.

These parents choose to put their children first and worries about what “others” think last, and are able to practice putting their own feelings about one another aside.

10

Recognize Each Parent's Purpose

Father giving piggyback ride to daughter outdoors

Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

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.

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