What Kind of Co Parent Are You?
- Your unique relationship with your co-parent
- How co-parenting shapes your child
- What kind of co-parent are you?
- Final thoughts
In the United States, approximately 50% of children will encounter divorce in their lives. Divorce presents stress in many ways, both for adults and children, and all can have difficulty adapting.
Despite the emotional stress, parents can reduce the amount of trauma their child experiences by learning to effectively co-parent. This involves a strong focus on the child’s best interests.
Given various marital situations, reasons for divorce, and other factors, co-parenting may prove to be easy for some and seemingly impossible for others. This article examines the different possible scenarios and provides insight to help you move forward in your co-parenting journey while meeting all of your children’s needs.
You have a unique relationship with your co-parent
The fact that two adults did not succeed romantically does not mean they can’t be successful co-parents and root for their children together. The definition of a supportive co-parenting relationship is when parents work as a team to care for their children. They share parenting responsibilities such as childcare and school, manage conflict in a healthy way, and are considerate of each other. Parents can remain friends, or they don’t have to even like each other, as long as the primary goal stays focused on the children.
Here are a few examples of divorced parents and how they choose to manage their children.
Tom and Amanda
Tom and Amanda divorced because of adultery. There are still a lot of emotions to be processed by both individuals, but they share two children. They each decided to shield their children from their personal pain and focus on making their kids’ lives as easy as possible.
They live in separate homes within a few miles of each other. They communicate weekly on everything school- and medical-related as well as extracurricular activities. They split their parenting time 50/50 and have a well-established routine that they each follow to maintain consistency.
Chris and Jackie
Chris and Jackie are in the middle of a divorce. They both just grew apart and claim to be different people now. They each admire certain traits in the other, but they despise other traits. At times, they have difficulty being mindful of what they say about the other parent when their children are around (they share three and live apart).
Jackie often doesn’t respect Chris’ work schedule and visitation schedule and will make plans without consulting him first. This results in stepping on toes and crossing over into his visitation time. Conversely, Chris will schedule appointments on Jackie’s time and expect her to cover them all.
Jack and Joey
Jack and Joey separated due to a high-conflict marriage involving verbal abuse and substance abuse. (Joey thinks Jack drinks too much; he disagrees.) They share one child and often argue in front of them. Both parents are guilty of bad-mouthing the other parent when they have the child in their care, leading to questions and hurt feelings by the child.
Your co-parenting relationship shapes your child
As you read the examples above, which co-parenting relationship did you feel was the most healthy? If you’re attempting to co-parent, which one do you resonate with the most? Do you feel there are areas in which you could improve?
Your children’s well-being is impacted by experiences in early life, including experiences with you and their other parent. Truth be told, there is always room for improvement. Mistakes will be made, and that is 100% okay. It simply makes us human. As long as you are always willing to get back up and try again with the right goals in mind, you will be successful.
The child who stands the best chance of having a good outcome is the child whose parents put them first. Adults who are able to put everything else aside, respect the other parent and their relationship with their child, and work together to create a safe, happy life for the child have the best type of co-parenting relationship out there. At times, it may be tricky, but keep your head in the game and keep pushing forward!
What kind of co-parent are you?
Have you thought about the type of co-parenting style you want to emulate? If you aren’t quite sure where you land, look into this parenting plan worksheet and see how you do. Have your counterpart do the same.
The conflict-avoidant co-parent
Someone who is conflict-avoidant opts to not address any issues or conflicts. Some may see this as positive; others, not so much. A conflict-avoidant person is often seen as the “peacekeeper” in a relationship.
Granted, most people don’t “enjoy” conflict, but conflict is a part of life. Therefore, we must learn how to resolve conflict rather than simply ignoring it. A conflict-avoidant person may find themself growing angrier at someone because they choose not to talk to them about what is bothering them. If this sounds like you, allow yourself to get in the habit of addressing (and handling) concerns and conflicts. It doesn’t have to get messy and end in war, but it should demonstrate fair and healthy communication.
The hands-on co-parent
Are you a parent who wants to know about everything, have a say in everything, and be included in everything? If so, you might be a hands-on parent. You may also be the parent who often takes the lead on decision-making, scheduling appointments, volunteering for events, buying school supplies, and so on.
Ideally, both parents would do well to be hands-on. If each person knows what’s going on, each can be equally involved.
The hands-off co-parent
Conversely, are you a parent who chooses to have no control or say in any of the decisions being made for the children? Perhaps you don’t know who your child's pediatrician is because you have never made an appointment before. Maybe you just send money to cover school supplies and clothes rather than taking the initiative to purchase any yourself. This is what a hands-off parent looks like.
The silently stewing co-parent
This is the parent who is most likely still hurt and angry over whatever events occurred to end the marriage. Overwhelming emotions combined with unresolved conflicts may make it difficult for this parent to truly and successfully co-parent with their ex. Individual and family counseling may be beneficial in this case.
Here are some valuable tips to help as you work toward a better co-parenting routine.
The permissive co-parent
Ah, the fun parent! Perhaps you feel lingering guilt over the divorce, and you think the best way to make it up to your children is to be the “good guy,” allowing them to have little to no rules or boundaries. Your time with them is split, so what’s the harm, right? Wrong. There is a lot wrong with both the permissive and the authoritarian parent; a happy medium is the best option.
Both parents should try their best to maintain a united front, respecting each other’s rules and boundaries and upholding them to the best of their ability.
The authoritarian co-parent
Tired of being coined the “bad guy?” You are the strict and structured parent, all the time. You are most likely the one who enforces discipline and the one whom the kids are most afraid of disappointing.
At the end of the day, it’s your children’s mental health and well-being that matters the most, and the parent you are (and the parent your former partner is) will ultimately shape them.
If you don’t know where to start co-parenting, review this list of ways to win at co-parenting.
No one expects perfection; the expectation is only progress. As you move through your divorce, be sure to include all co-parenting expectations in your co-parenting agreement. And, as always, refer to Hello Divorce for more resources to help you on your journey!