The Co-Parenting Cheat Sheet


So you've made it through your divorce. Or you've split as a couple, but the result of a relationship, however brief or long it was, that once existed has resulted in new love: your children. Whether you're excited about it or not, you'll be in a new and different relationship with your child's other parent for the next fifty or so years. 

And, if your kids aren't already in college -- you'll need to be communicating effectively with the baby daddy on a regular basis. Are there ways that are better than others to discuss what your kids need without losing your mind? Yes! Yes! Yes!

Co-Parenting can be tough, tough business, especially if residual negative feelings exist on either side. You can handle every aspect like a pro, with a little practice and some proper procedures:

Focus on the kids. You're not together anymore, so there's no need to discuss any aspect of the relationship. No sense in wondering what he's up to when he doesn't have the kids, or where he's spending his money. What you do is none of his business, and vice versa. Any communication should be about the kids and only about the kids, so stay focused in your conversations, emails, and texts. Leave no room for any other topics.

Never make assumptions. Oh, he might be an hour late to pick up the kids, pay his child support late, or introduce the new girlfriend to the kids after about ten minutes. But you can't assume any of those actions are meant just to upset you. Honestly, how aware of his behavior was he when you were together? Exactly. He's probably continuing some of the same behaviors you overlooked when you were a couple, only now they upset you and you're taking them personally. Never take anything personally, you must only hold him accountable to his promises and then get on with your day. You have lots of other things to think about these days, don't you?

Find an outlet for your frustration. Our house rules mandate we never discuss bio dad when the kid is in the house. Yes, your kid will overhear you when you're complaining to your girlfriend about his latest shenanigans. Yes they will recognize your code name for him. Yes, they will notice when you talk about him in a different {snarky!} voice, even if what you say isn't all that critical. Find someone to talk to and talk to them only when your kid is as at school, daycare, on a playdate or with the other parent. If you have to get something off your chest, send a text or go sit in the car where they can't hear you. Schedule a therapy or coaching session, or even a coffee date with a girlfriend. Find a safe place to express your frustration where your little people can't hear you. 

Keep your side of the street clean. He's gonna do what he's gonna do. You can't control him now, you can only control you now. Do what you say you're going to do and be pleasant when you do it. By pleasant, I don't mean stop by and do his laundry while he's at work. By pleasant I mean, be as nice to him as you would the receptionist at your lawyer's firm or the UPS delivery guy. Use your manners, be a bit business-like, and end the conversation as soon as the needed topics have been covered.

Take ownership. You might think he's the biggest jerk ever, but you chose him. There's nothing you can do about it now. Own it, and move on.

Tell the truth. Stay age appropriate. If the dad isn't showing up, you can tell your kids the truth, according to what they can handle. Be as diplomatic as humanly possible. Reinforce that him not showing up isn't (a) a sign they aren't loved and (b) about them. Dad is making dad's decision. He will ultimately pay the price because he won't have a close relationship with his kids until they are much older, if ever.

Hire a divorce coach. A divorce coach can help you process through your feelings, take back your life, and help you create a solid plan for your future in a safe environment. You may also need therapy, and therapy can be great. Therapy is about healing the results of the past. Coaching will get your focused on the future.

No grown-up child of divorce ever says, "My mom complained about my dad and I took her side. It was awesome." They will tell you they felt unsure and insecure about their life. They will say they felt put in the middle. They will be sad. You don't want your kids to be sad, I know you don't.

It's better for your kids to grow up and say, "My mom never said a word about what a jerk my dad was, and now we have a relationship that's great." Or, "My mom never said anything, dad was a jerk and it didn't take me long to figure that out for myself."

It's up to you to create the space for your kids to have healthy relationships with both parents, forever. You and your kids will benefit greatly when you are awesome at co-parenting!


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Chris St Clair said...

No one said co-parenting was going to be easy but this cheat sheet goes a long way toward helping folks make it easier on themselves and on their kids!!

Honoree Corder said...

Thanks Chris! Always lovely to see your comments {and you!} xo

Inge's Gift said...

Thank you for this reminder! I will have to keep it as reminder over and over again. Working hard to become a succesful single mom!

Jenn Nelson said...

Well said. It can be very difficult, especially if both parties are still caught up in the past and are refusing to let go of past hurts. I think the first true step is forgiveness and then acceptance that the relationship is over and has now transformed into something different.

Honoree Corder said...

Inge -- I'm certain you're already a successful single mom! :)

Jenn -- thanks for reading and weighing in. Here's to hoping that as people become more aware, they get better for the sake of their kids.

Anonymous said...

What if the man you are trying to co-parent with is very immature and smacks your butt and tries to kiss you constantly in front of your child. How do you co- parent with someone like that?

Honoree Corder said...


You put some damn good boundaries in place. Try not putting yourself in a position where your ex can physically touch you (don't enter his home, don't invite him to enter yours), make arrangements via text or email, etc.

It's your life and you have a say about this, too!


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