For some, it comes easy. For others, despite their best efforts, it simply isn’t possible. There are a wide variety of coparenting situations, so I thought I’d focus on the child-centered approach that my Ex and I have implemented in our coparenting relationship.

{Disclaimer: My coparenting examples below are only possible because both my Ex and I are mentally stable. If you read about how we coparent and think, “Yeah right, my Ex would NEVER coparent that way,” then you may be dealing with a toxic individual. In this case, go see a therapist (on your own) to help you navigate the crazy. You can also check out my blog post, “For those of you who aren’t so lucky,” to get a jump-start on figuring out if you are dealing with a personality disordered individual.}

Alright, let’s jump into some core beliefs and practices that make my coparenting situation a successful one.

Our kids are people, not property. They have their own needs, their own feelings, and their own relationships with me and their Dad. This is at the forefront of every conversation and decision surrounding or affecting our children’s lives.

I am not more important to our kids, or better than their Dad. To be honest, I struggled a little with this at first. I do things a specific way, and my Ex may do things a totally different way, or not do things at all. And that’s OK. Before the divorce, our kids were experiencing both parenting styles, so I know that they will be completely fine continuing to experience both of our quirks, faults, parenting fails, but most importantly, our love.

I do not have more of a right than my Ex to spend time with our children. Again, it’s the kids’ time, not the parents’ time. Our kids are their own beings. Not “Mom’s kids,” or “Dad’s kids.” When we got divorced, neither of us got “divorced” from the kids, so why would he suddenly have less of a right to be their Father? A choice to get divorced is not a choice to leave the kids, or not be a parent.

I share information freely, enthusiastically even. During our marriage, my spouse knew everything that I knew about the kids. If he asked for info, I would share. Even when he didn’t ask for info, I would share. He was listed as a parent on every form and email list. He was included. That shouldn’t change just because we got divorced.

In fact, there is even more of an effort by both of us to share complete and detailed information about the kids health, education, activities, etc. I talk with him daily about their school, sleep, sniffles, poop, funny things they say, etc. You name it, we share it. The main beneficiaries of this practice are the kids – and it shows.

One of the situations that comes up every once in a while, is that my Ex will ask for information that I have already given him. Instead of replying with, “I already shared that, look back at your texts and get your sh*t together,” I say, “Here you go… the doctor’s name is…” Why? Because you know who suffers if I don’t share the information, and my Ex has to spend 20 minutes figuring out the number for our kids’ doctor? OUR KIDS. Our kids suffer. If I have information and he asks for it, I share it (and quickly) so that he can be the best parent that he can be. This ensures that my kids are taken care of no matter what parent they are with. TEAM KIDS.

Without making my own life too difficult, I try to make my Ex’s life as easy as possible. I try to be flexible, kind, and think about how I would like to be treated. If my Ex has a work trip, I offer to trade days. If my Ex is short on sweatshirts for the kids, I send a few extra in their backpacks. Being nice is easy when you think about all of your actions being for the kids.

Although I absolutely despise when parents are thought of as “babysitters,” to their own children, I like to extend the same level of helpful care to my Ex as I would to a babysitter. For example, if I was leaving my kids with a sitter for a week, I’d make sure the sitter had all of the information that they could ever possibly need, so that my children were safe, happy, and healthy.

Doctor’s names, numbers, urgent care address, teachers names, coaches contact info, homework instructions, dates, times, and locations of activities, etc. This is no different than the level of information sharing that goes on in healthy co-parenting relationships. I try to help my Ex be the best, and most prepared parent that he can be – for my kids. {There is difference between being helpful/encouraging, and being a control freak. It’s a balance, so be careful with this one. ;)}

I had to let go of control. This means trusting that my Ex can handle things like making doctors appointments, getting the kids to and from places on time, going to parent-teacher conferences solo, then filling me in afterwards, etc. For example, my kids had a “Daddy Day” the night before their school picture day. I asked my Ex if he wanted me to put some picture day clothes in the kids bags, or if he wanted me to come over in the morning to help do their hair. He said that he had it covered, so I had to trust that he had it covered.

A few weeks later when we got the pictures, our daughter’s hair was a little messy and our son was wearing a stretched out v-neck… but who cares? They are kids. And do you know what I see in those pictures? Happy, well-adjusted kids, with parents who work together to make their lives awesome. Nothing else matters.

I am courteous. If my Ex plans on taking the kids to see a specific movie, I let him take them first. I can take the kids to see it again if I want to. If my Ex has something special that he does with the kids, that can be their “thing.” I can have other special things that I do with our kids. If I arrive somewhere where the my Ex and the kids are hanging out, I leave. I let them have their time. If the kids and my Ex show up somewhere that I am hanging out, I wrap up what I am doing and go somewhere else. It’s far more important that our kids get to experience that place or thing, than for me to get to experience it. EVERY SINGLE TIME.

I’m not threatened by our children loving and wanting to be with their Dad. I thank my lucky stars that my children have a Dad that they love, feel safe with and are loved by. Just because I don’t “love” my Ex, does not mean that my children cannot or do not love their Dad just as much as they love me. Read that again.

We make decisions together. This is a simple one for us. If it has to do with our kids, we talk about it, and come to a decision together.

To recap…. my coparenting situation is healthy because my Ex and I both:

  • Understand that our children are not property or possessions.
  • Think of ourselves as equals in our children’s eyes.
  • Believe that our children deserve to have equal time and equally strong relationships with both of us.
  • Share information, and access to information, freely and enthusiastically.
  • Try to make each other’s lives easier, not harder.
  • Let go of control.
  • Lead with kindness and are courteous.
  • Are not threatened or insecure by our children’s love for their other parent.
  • Make decisions together, as a team.
  • Believe that equal and empowered parenting is what is best for our kids.

Having a coparenting relationship like this takes selflessness. It takes time. It takes compromise, and it takes trust, which can be hard after a divorce. IT IS HARD. But it is so worth it. Our kids see us working as a united front; as their parents, and they win.

On the other end of the coparenting spectrum, there is something called “counter-parenting.” Counter-parenting usually takes place when one of the parents has some type of personality disorder. To show the contrast, here are some examples of what counter-parenting looks like:

  • Saying they want to coparent, but doing the opposite of all of the items from the list above.
  • Actions never aligning with words. They say, “I want to coparent with love,” and then fight tooth and nail against anything close to equal parenting and equal parenting time.
  • Casually breaking court orders – it’s like the orders don’t even exist.
  • Manipulating court orders to suit their agenda of hurting you.
  • Ignoring court orders that benefit your relationship with the kids.
  • Withholding and cutting kid time short.
  • After withholding time, “offering extra time.” There are quotations around “offering extra time” because it’s not extra time at all. They will essentially take court ordered time away from you, and then “offer” back smaller amounts than they withheld to make it seem like they are being generous. And if you take them up on that “extra” time, you better believe that they will remind you of their “kind-hearted coparenting” gesture the next time that they are withholding the kids.
  • Withholding medical and dental information, even if it means your kids don’t get the care that they need.
  • Withholding access to people in the children’s community like coaches, doctors, teachers, etc. If they refuse to give you your child’s baseball coach’s name and contact info, something is wrong.
  • Sharing partial or untrue information about the kids. This will make it so that you can’t be as prepared, or as “good” of a parent as they believe themselves to be.
  • Constantly making vailed threats so that you don’t feel safe during your parenting time.
  • Inserting themselves into your time with the kids by hanging out in places that you normally take the kids, and then refusing to leave.
  • Gas-lightning the kids to make the kids think that they are the better parent in every way. Gas-lighting is scary and horrible to watch being done to children. It breaks down the children’s sense of reality and what they know to be true and causes them to not trust themselves, or anyone else for that matter.
  • Trying to make your life as difficult as possible even when it directly and negatively impacts the kids.
  • Lying to the kids about visit dates and times, to make you look like you are the one changing their plans.
  • Having the kids call you when they know you are busy/working so that you can’t answer. Then telling the kids that you don’t want to talk to them. If you call back, they won’t tell the kids that you called. This leaves the kids feeling like they aren’t important to you.
  • Teaching the kids over-time to disrespect you and to devalue you by modeling the behavior. Covert narcissists will use nice words while at the same time, showing the kids that you are not worthy of respect.
  • Generally attempting to destroy you with no regard for the kids feelings, needs, health, emotional stability, etc.

If you need more examples of counter-parenting, please message me. I could write a book with all of the damaging antics I have witnessed, and am happy to share if it means that things get better for you and your kids.

Regardless of what your coparenting situation looks like, always, always do what is best for your kids. Make decisions that they will look back at and think, “My dad/mom really, truly cared about my best interests.”