Healthy Co-Parenting Rules: How to Make Rules that Work for Your Family

When co-parenting, it is crucial to have rules in place that will help the family function in a healthy way. Rules provide structure and stability and can help prevent conflict. However, not all rules are created equal. To be effective, co-parenting rules should be specific, reasonable, and enforceable.

Let's start with the fundamentals of co-parenting and work our way up to some tips that can help you create rules that work for you and your family.

co parenting rules holding parents hand

What are co-parenting rules and what are the benefits

Co-parenting is when two parents work together to raise their child even though they are no longer in a romantic relationship. It can be a difficult transition for both the parents and the child, but it is important to remember that you are both still working towards the same goal: raising a happy, healthy child.

It is possible for co-parenting rules and agreements to be beneficial to the children. To begin with, co-parenting laws and agreements allow kids to learn by example. Harmonious and cooperative parents teach their children how to work together even in unpleasant circumstances, and this teaches their children how to collaborate with others in future conflicts.

For co-parenting to work, it is crucial to have rules in place that both parents can agree on and follow. These rules should be based on what is best for the children, not the parents' personal preferences.

How to make it work for your family

Children who lose contact with one or both parents following a divorce and split may be concerned about whether they will ever see them again or that their relationship with them would be permanently altered.

Allow children to spend time with both parents through co-parenting; they will feel less like they've lost a parent or must choose sides. It also allows them to develop stronger connections with both of their parents.

Now let's get down to business with the nitty-gritty details of these co-parenting regulations.

How do we establish the foundation for it to work?

Establish rules and expectations early on

It's vital to establish co-parenting rules and expectations early on. This will help ensure that both parents are on the same page and help avoid any misunderstandings or conflicts down the road.

Some things that you may want to consider setting rules around include:

Do not make your children pick sides

Your children should never feel like they must choose between you and your co-parent. This can be difficult to avoid if you constantly argue with or criticize your co-parent in front of your children. It is important to try to remain civil with each other for the sake of your children.

Don't speak poorly of the other parent

It is important to never speak negatively about your co-parent in front of your children. This can be difficult, especially if you are not on good terms with your co-parent, but it is important for the sake of your children.

When speaking to your children about your ex, use a pleasant tone

This will encourage your children to be open with you about their feelings towards their other parent and will also make them more likely to listen to and obey any rules you set regarding communication and interaction with their other parent.

Leave the details out

Telling your children how difficult your life has become would just add to their uncertainty and place additional strain on their already fragile shoulders. Giving them too much information can be interpreted as a subtle (or not so subtle) request for assistance.

For example, rather than diving into extensive explanations of why your bank account is empty, keep it simple: We need to be more careful with how we spend our money today.

Be consistent with your parenting style

Co-parenting is a collaborative effort! Although it is beneficial for children to be exposed to different ideas and learn to be flexible, they also need to know that they are expected to follow the same set of rules in each home. Consistency between your home and their other parent reduces your children's confusion.

The rules don't have to be identical in both homes, but if you and your ex-spouse have similar sets of parenting rules, your children won't have to switch between two very different disciplinary styles. In both houses, some rules such as homework, curfews, and off-limit activities should be closely similar.

Even if the broken rules happen outside your home, strive to follow comparable systems of penalties for broken rules. So, if your kids have been denied access to television at your ex's place, stick to your guns. Good behavior can be rewarded in the same way too.

Aim for some stability in your children's schedules where possible. Making mealtimes, homework, and bedtimes consistent might help your youngster adjust to having two homes.

Communicate with your partner regularly

Even if it seems impossible, peaceful, constant, and intentional communication with your ex is critical to the success of co-parenting. It all starts with your attitude. Consider your communication with your ex as serving a higher purpose: your child's welfare. Consider how your actions may affect your child before contacting your ex, and commit to conducting yourself with decency. Make your child the center of every conversation you have with your ex.

Remember that meeting your ex in person isn't always required; for most chats, talking on the phone or exchanging texts or emails will suffice. Determine which style of interaction works best for you to have a conflict-free conversation.

Suppose the idea of talking to your ex seems impossible. In that case, some of the tips you can try are to imagine you're talking to a colleague, make requests instead of coming off "demanding," show resistance from overreacting, keep the conversation kid-focus, and if things get too heated quickly – disengage. Being calm and collected in sticky situations like this goes a long way.

Set aside time for each other outside of parenting

Raising a child is hard work, with no break. It's important, occasionally, to have a break to regroup and reflect on your parenting style. Hence if permissible, it is great for both parents to set aside time for each other outside of parenting. Something as simple as getting coffee together while running errands can go a long way for both parents' well-being.

It does not stop there! Children of co-parents who get along believe that their parents get along in general (not just for the child). This doesn't mean they always agree or like each other, but they try to respect each other in front of their children. They've also learned how to communicate while avoiding conflict successfully.

Respect each other's parenting choices

Different parents have different sets of beliefs, just as how you were brought up differently than how your ex-partner was. That being said, there might be some values that your ex-partner instills in your child that you might not agree with.

However, you should keep in mind that your child's sense of security in a positive environment comes first, above all. Recognize your unconscious parenting style and how it may be a reaction to or a repetition of how your parents raised you.

Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of your daily routines with your ex and try to establish common ground. Create a co-parenting agreement that ties your intents, vision, parental rights, responsibilities, and joint goals together.

You may also co-write a co-parenting mission statement, hang it on the fridge, or use it as a screensaver to remind you daily. "Our mission as co-parents is to work together, respect and support our different relationships with our children, and help them develop into compassionate, confident, resourceful, and joyful human beings," for example.

When a significant disagreement emerges, find a respectful manner to resolve it. In the presence of your children, learn to contain and compartmentalize your unpleasant feelings. Make no harsh words, judgments, or even subtle innuendos about your ex-partner's wrongdoings, badness, or inferiority. Reduce the amount of time you spend judging, blaming, condemning, and whining about your ex, whether to yourself or others. While it's natural and healthy to experience and work through your anger and sadness, it's not healthy or appropriate to overexpose your children to these emotions or to stay in a victim role.

Creating a routine that works for everyone

No parent can agree on everything, whether they're together or apart. When you and your partner cannot reach an agreement, try to find a middle ground.

If you feel it is necessary for your kid to go to church services while living with a nonreligious co-parent, for example, ask your co-parent if he or she would be willing to drop the kid off at the service and then pick them up afterward. On the other days, you might decide that the co-parent will accompany the child at the service, so they are also involved in this aspect of the child's life.

Holidays and vacations, which are out of the ordinary for co-parents, can be challenging, but communication and planning can help. Giving as much notice as possible and providing your co-parent with contact information of where you will be are two things you may try to lighten the situation. Otherwise, keep the kids in their normal holiday habits. Keep the same pattern as you did before you split up, like spending Thanksgiving with your family and Christmas with your ex-partner. Your children need as much consistency as they can get. If you can't share holidays, consider alternating. Above all, avoid scheduling a vacation when one of you is responsible for the children.

Don't forget to have fun together albeit separately

Remember to focus on the positive aspects of your time with the kids and your ex-partner. Snap a photo and text it to your ex whenever you do something exciting with the children or when you experience a particularly lovely moment. They will frequently miss their children while you are spending time with them, and sending a quick text, photograph, or email will help to ease their minds.

co parenting rules mom and daughter

Handling difficult situations as a co-parent

Let's face the fact that co-parenting is not always (or never) easy and seems to be even harder when you have to deal with tough situations or a difficult co-parent. The most important thing is to calm yourself (in any way possible!) and be reminded that this is completely and utterly normal, and to come out of this hurdle stronger than you ever were before! Knowing some survival guide to help you handle this situation as they arise in a constructive way can really be a cheat sheet for your unique family in the long run.

The rule of thumb when dealing with challenging situations, the rule of thumb is always to keep your eyes on the 'ball' - and in this case, to always put your child's well-being first. When the going gets tough, it's okay to feel your emotions, but during these conflicts, you should always ask yourself, "How do I relay this difficult information to my child in the most comforting way possible that will not affect their mental well-being and without putting my child in the middle of the issue?" Compartmentalizing and communicating feelings is the best way.

As you and your co-parent start to romantically pursue other people, talk about what roles the new partners might play with your kids. Many family professionals advise that when co-parents start dating new partners, they should not be involved in any family decisions nor speak with the ex-partner on child-related concerns until they have a stable place in the family. As time goes on, you and your co-parent will want to agree on how the new partners can best contribute to choices that affect the children while always keeping their best interests in mind.

Adjusting to life with a new partner and co-parenting

Everyone finds the divorce process unpleasant, but you can get through it with time. You will most likely date again; however, that process is different for everyone. Learning how to date after a divorce can be difficult, especially if you have children. You may also be anxious that your dating life may disrupt your co-parenting system.

Every family is different, and so are co-parenting partnerships. Open communication and a willingness to be flexible are required for a successful co-parenting partnership. However, deciding how much to tell your ex about your new relationship can be difficult. It is possible to integrate your new relationship into your life despite the anxiety and stress that comes with it.

Remember that the new partner is not a substitute for your child's parent. When an ex-spouse starts a new romantic relationship or remarries, it's not easy. Many people fear that the new stepparent will take over or replace them in their children's lives, whether they are the custodial parent or not. However, no new relationship can affect the fact that you are your child's parent. Find strategies to nourish and reaffirm your existing parental relationship with your children by working with your ex-partner.

It's beneficial to conceive of a new stepparent as an addition to your existing family rather than a replacement when adjusting to a new stepparent. Even if you have conflicting feelings about the new individual, try to focus on the positive aspects of their presence in your child's life.

co parenting rules mom and son


When a marriage ends, most parents want what is best for their children, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer to parenthood. Setting aside quarrels to develop a co-parenting strategy that works for everyone involved is feasible. Legal aid and mediation methods can help if that isn't an option. It is important to remember that co-parenting should entail give-and-take from both sides, and the following tips may help develop a system of healthy co-parenting rules.

Grief from a breakup doesn't have to spill into your child's life or your relationship with your ex, as long as you keep the attention on providing a kind, stable, secure, and consistent home for your kids