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The Co-Parenting Code of Conduct

by Jennie Dalcour

After the dust settles from divorce, most parents will try to co-parent their child. This can be helpful, because co-parenting helps both parents play active roles in their children’s lives, and children benefit from the interaction with both parents. Unfortunately, a successful co-parenting relationship doesn’t just happen -- especially after a contentious divorce. The journey to peaceful co-parenting is paved with patience and hard work. By deciding how you will interact in the framework of this new partnership, you can create a code of conduct that will serve of you and the other parent as you co-parent your children together.

Communication

The healthier your communication is, the better your co-parenting relationship will function. You may need to restrict communication to phone calls and email if talking face-to-face creates conflict. Schedule time to discuss your children’s progress and any problems that arise. Talk about your children’s strengths and any developments they have made. With regular communication, both parents should begin to trust each other more.

Decision-Making

Parents make hundreds of choices for their children in any given day. Some of these choices are minor, like what brand of peanut butter to buy; other choices, such as religious practices and medical care, can have a significant impact. Decision-making for important parenting choices must be a joint effort. Co-parenting requires parents to decide the major issues ahead of time, so no parent feels his voice was not heard. The initial decisions that must be made involve parenting time, visitation, and financial responsibility. Parents must make religion, school and medical care decisions early in the separation. Many co-parenting plans also include day-to-day decision, such as dietary choices, appropriate clothing, spending the night with friends, birthday parties, daycare options, bedtimes, television and video game use, internet and discipline. By deciding these issues together, you can develop a consistency between your two homes that will help your children feel secure.

Peaceful Co-Existence

Conflict will arise between even the most dedicated co-parents. How you handle that conflict decides whether your co-parenting relationship is successful. No arguing or disagreeing in front of your children. No exceptions. Arguing in front of the children will hurt them and your relationship with your co-parent. Do not speak ill of the parent within earshot of your children. They will internalize your ill feelings. When you have disagreements try to remember that you and the other parent have the same goal: healthy, well-adjusted children. Fight fair by avoiding personal accusations and name-calling.

Respectful Parenting

Co-parenting with respect should be the ultimate goal. As your marriage ends, your new relationship as co-parents begins. Refer to your ex-spouse as your co-parent. Think about each situation from the other parent’s point of view. Try to understand where he is coming from and what his feelings are. Treat your co-parent with respect by following the parenting plan and remain flexible with your children’s schedule. Encourage your children to build a healthy relationship with the other parent.

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