Co-Parenting Civility Code: Why Kids Need You to Have One

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I live in two co-parenting worlds.

In one world, I am a mom responsible for loving, parenting, and caring for my daughter with my ex-husband.

In the other world, I am a step-mom responsible for loving and caring for my step-sons and supporting my husband as he co-parents with his ex-wife.

Co-parenting, by definition, is a process where two parents work together to raise a child even though they are divorced or separated and no longer live together. 

Co-parenting, by reality, is a required relationship where two parents navigate the reasons that their marriage failed to raise a child and no longer live together.

Every family has its story and circumstances. A divorce decree and a new home with you as CEO does not make the history, emotions, differing parenting styles, and opposing opinions disappear. All the reasons that you got divorced will remain present and may escalate when co-parenting.

Whether you have been co-parenting for years or just starting your journey, I believe a Co-parenting Civility Code is a must. It is most effective if both parents align and agree to follow it. If that’s not possible, then create your own civility code to hold yourself accountable to doing your part to foster a healthy co-parenting relationship. 

#1 – Be Team Kids.

Co-parenting is not about the ex. It is not a game. It is not time for revenge using the kids as the prize. Creating a ‘parent versus parent’ or ‘house versus house’ dynamic is dysfunctional and unhealthy. Kids need both parents to be their advocates and work together to care, love, and support them. Period.

#2 – Accept and respect parenting styles.

Different parenting styles are likely one reason that you are co-parenting. You wanted it one way. Your ex wanted it another way. Now, the kids live in two households with different rules, expectations, and parenting styles. 

You cannot control the structure, the rules, or the freedoms that exist in the other parent’s home. Physical, mental, and emotional safety are your primary areas of concern. If the kids are safe, then you should accept and respect the co-parent’s style.

#3 – Align on the BIG things.

Building your kid’s life compass warrants a strong effort to align as co-parents on BIG things. A lack of alignment on the BIG things will likely impact the trajectory of the kid’s life. It’s worth the effort to create consistency in the homes for the kids.

Here are a few BIG things to consider:

  • Habits – diet, sleep, hygiene
  • School – homework, recognition, consequences
  • Technology – content restrictions, monitoring, screen time rules
  • Activities
  • Friendships  
  • Driving – curfew, consequences
  • Dating
  • Work – hours, ethics, responsibility

#4 – Proactively share information about the kid’s world.

What concerns do you have about the kid’s health or behaviors? Share it. What exciting news should be celebrated? Share it. What friend made a bad decision and shouldn’t be invited over again? Share it. What is the status of a dating relationship? Share it. 

Kids experience a good school day or a bad school day. One parent knows how the day went. One parent likely does not know. It’s important to proactively share what’s going on in the kid’s world so the other parent can coach and support during their parenting time. 

#5 – Be the role model.

Your kids are listening to every word and watching every interaction (or lack thereof) between the two parents that they love so very much. They feel the peace or the tension.

They see the respect or the manipulation.

They hear positivity of working together for their best interest or negativity of being the reason for the conflict. Be the parent who encourages a relationship with the other parent, treats the other parent with respect, and takes the road of integrity in all situations.

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