Deciding to Co-Parent instead of Fight

When a couple divorces, the partners’ old relationship ends.  But because both will continue to have individual relationships with the children they need to work towards a new cooperative relationship with each other.

While a new cooperative relationship is the goal in most families, there are some exceptions. In cases of abused, neglected, or deserted children, there is a need to protect the children from one of the parents. An alliance with the harmful parent is not in the best interest of the children.

In a situation where the parents work towards a cooperative constructive relationship, the children can and usually adjust to the divorce more quickly with fewer long-term problems.  The greater the cooperation between the parents, the better the adjustment for the children overall.

Being cooperative parents does not necessarily mean that parents are the best of friends.  They may not even like each other much, but they are able to cooperate and compromise for the sake of the children.  Even if they disagree over things like finances or child-rearing techniques, they manage to keep the conflicts under control and not involve the children in their differences.  Custody and visitation arrangements are formally set but remain flexible enough to meet the needs of the children and the parents.  Cooperative parents strive to share some of the decision making and child rearing tasks and participate in major life events. They understand and accept their responsibilities as parents and their priority is to do what is best for the children.  They will help each other in times of crisis.  This kind of co-parenting allows children to maintain a relationship with both parents, thus helping to reduce the stress of divorce on the children.


These guidelines can help create the successful parenting partnership that is so vital for children of divorce.  The intention is to establish a cooperative relationship for the purpose of raising healthy children. Ask yourself, which of the below points you need to work on with your children’s other parent.

  • Your mutual concern is your children. Make a decision to create a successful partnership for continuing to be parents despite the ending of the marriage.
  • Respect your children’s relationship with your child’s parent. Your children did not divorce either parent.  Encourage them to get over any feelings of estrangement from the other parent.

Ask your child’s parent to adopt these guidelines with you for working together as parents.  If your child’s parent refuses, use these guidelines yourself as much as possible.  Accept that you cannot control your child’s parent’s thoughts, feelings, behaviors.  You can only control your own.

  • Be businesslike with your former spouse. Test your own behavior by asking:  Was I businesslike?  Did I follow these guidelines: Did I keep the conversation limited to the children?
  • Measure your child’s parent’s behavior NOT by how you feel, but by the same standard: was his/her behavior businesslike?
  • Make appointments to talk about the children. Except for emergencies, call only during agreed upon times.  When calling ask if the time is convenient; if not, make a new appointment for a time that works.
  • Be polite. Do not use bad language or name-calling.  Do not discuss issues while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.  If you feel yourself getting un-businesslike, stop and agree to talk at a later time.
  • Use “I” statements, not “you” statements.
  • Do not assume anything based on past experience. Give your ex the benefit of the doubt as to behavior, as you would a stranger. There may be new and current reasons for your child’s parent’s behavior, thoughts, feelings, and decisions.
  • Do not expect approval from your child’s parent. Have your personal and emotional needs fulfilled elsewhere and with others.
  • If you are able to say something positive about your child’s parent’s parenting, do not withhold it. Express appreciation, no matter how small, to contribute to the greater success of the parenting partnership.
  • Do not discuss matters not related to the children unless your partner agrees to do so. Respect your ex’s privacy; do not seek the details of his/her life.  Do not intrude on his/her territory.
  • Make all agreements clear and follow-up with written confirmation when possible (make your own written agreement). Be clear and complete in your communication; include time, place, whether the children will be fed or not, what clothes they need, etc. DO NOT ask the children to do your business; communicate with the other parent directly or through a neutral party (again not the children).  If unable to find a neutral party to exchange information, try written communications. Again this is a business working relationship, so keep that in mind when communicating and negotiating obstacles.
  • Before making decisions, consult your partner and the children so that the most workable decision can be made.
  • Don’t insist on what does not work. Be flexible; commit yourself as much as you are able to and experiment to see what does work.  Remember children’s needs change as they get older.
  • Accept that you cannot control your child’s parent’s thoughts, feelings, behaviors. You can only control your own.
  • Promote good will in the partnership. Think of the importance of your investment and expected returns.  The investment is what you will do for your children’s happiness and success in life.  The returns are comfort and security for your children, and the children knowing their parents care enough to work together for them. A good working relationship with your former spouse will help make a better life for you and your children.
  • Share information about the children so you both can appreciate and celebrate their unique characteristics.


*Article adapted from The Ohio State University August, 2007-3476 visit Ohio State University Extension’s website “Ohioline” at

Children’s Bill of Rights in Divorce

Children’s Bill of Rights in Divorce*

  1. The right to be treated as a person and not as a pawn or possession.

  2. The right to get emotional support from both parents.

  3. The right to spend time with each parent.

  4. The right to avoid being caught in the middle.

  5. The right to avoid the painful games parents play to hurt each other.

  6. The right to love each parent, without feeling disloyal or guilty.

  7. The right to express feelings about the divorce, such as anger, sadness, or fear.

  8. The right to remain a child, without being asked to take on parental responsibilities.

  9. The right to know they didn’t cause the divorce.

  10. The right to the best financial support that can be provided by both parents.

*Adapted from a decision of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Source:  The Aging Institute of Beach Acres

Become a better Listener

4 Steps of Active Listening:

Stop-stop what you are doing and pay attention, this tells the speaker that you are focused on them and they are important.

Look-Make eye contact with speakers and face them directly.  Look for nonverbal cues (facial expressions and body language) that may tell you something about the speaker’s thoughts and feelings.

Listen-Listen to what the speaker is saying and pay special attention to their words, tone, and body language.  Realize that the speaker may be communicating several messages at the same time (some unspoken).

Respond-Respond in a way that tells the speaker you have not only been listening but that you have understood them as well.  Throughout the conversation, use eye contact, nods, “mm-hmmm’” smiles, or even a touch to confirm your attentiveness.   When he/she is finished speaking, reflect back what he/she has shared in order to reinforce your understanding of the situation.  Two communication strategies are: paraphrasing and asking questions to guide the speaker to their own solution.

4 Principles for Reflective Listening:

Establish an atmosphere of trust:  Let them know it is all right to talk with you

Look at (observe) What do you know about this individual’s background, experience, and temperament? Put yourself in the place of the other person; try to understand what the person is saying, not what you would be saying in the same situation.

Listen to them tell you their experience.  What is their perspective: How does he/she sound?  Listen closely for statements about feelings and for the feeling tone behind the statements; be patient and don’t push

Learn from the situation.  Develop your “best-educated guess” as to what might be going on.  Wonder about his/her feelings.  Identify your goals for the interaction and decide what response from you would best support those goals.  As you receive more information, modify your best guess and your response

How much sleep do kids need?

Are your kids getting enough sleep?

Setting a Bedtime so Everyone gets Enough Sleep

Too often we underestimate the need for sleep, particularly in growing children. A friend once told me her secret to parenting was that she put all her kids to bed at 6 pm. At first, I thought she was joking. Then she started to describe how some nights the kids literally went straight from dinner to bed, only stopping to ask why the sun was still up. At first, she did it so she didn’t have cranky kids to deal with before work and school. She kept doing it because it gave her a much needed moment of sanity in the evening. For school-age children with homework and activities, it may seem like an impossible time crunch. The first step is knowing how much sleep your child needs.  

Are your kids getting enough sleep?

Some days it seems like our kids will never run out of energy, but that’s not the best way to figure out if one’s getting enough sleep. For optimum health, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine established this guide:

  • Infants from 4 to 12 months should get 12 to 16 hours of sleep, including naps
  • Children 1 to 2 years old should get 11 to 14 hours, including naps
  • Kids 3 to 5 should get 10 to 13 hours, including naps
  • Children 6 to 12-year-olds should sleep 9 to 12 hours a night
  • Teenagers should get from 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night

Could your kids use a new bedtime to help get those much-needed sleep hours in? Wilson Elementary School in Kenosha, Wisconsin created a handy chart to find the right bedtime based on age and wake-up time. Use the chart to find the bedtime for each of your kids and write it down so you can put it into practice. 

Make the bedtime known in advance. You don’t want your children to see their bedtime as a form of punishment. Sleep is not punishment, it’s a necessity for being healthy, just like taking a bath, brushing their teeth, drinking water, and eating vegetables. 

Benefits of getting enough sleep at any age:

  1. Less stress, more room for joy.
  2. Better focus at school and work.
  3. Stronger immunity, means fewer sick days.
  4. Interacting with others in a more positive way. 
  5. Better decision making. 

If other changes need to be phased into their routine to make the new bedtime schedule work, start by laying out a plan for those changes. Create a logical order for each change and as co-parents agree to be consistent for everyone’s sake. 

To maintain consistency and momentum, try creating a simple checklist or star chart. As adults going through change we often can use the encouragement and helpful reminder, plus it allows the children to play a role in mastering their schedule.