There are many practical rules for healthy co-parenting, largely focused on consistency and cooperation. Underneath the practicalities is the basic attitude towards the co-parent. Here are six firm rules that demonstrate the right disposition.
- Never, ever, criticize your co-parent in front of your children. Children need to idealize their parents in the early years and respect them in the teenage years. Criticism of the co-parent only induces your child to take a stand against you, overtly or silently.
- Show no interest in your co-parent’s private life. Your kids will inevitably talk about the other parent. Never discourage children from saying what is on their minds, but do not encourage co-parent reports, with questions or otherwise. Besides, such disinterest is healthier for you.
- Defend your co-parent when the opportunity arises. Give him/her the benefit of doubt when your children are complaining. Do not tolerate disrespectful talk about either of the children’s parents, as if you were still living together.
- Be courteous and kind towards your co-parent at child activities. Sit together, if possible. Your child does not need the anxiety of any parental friction, or the temptation to manage your conflict. For an hour or two, the child might touch the experience of a united family.
- Do not negotiate or even communicate through your children. Never put your child in the position of arbiter or mediator. That role, if needed, is for adults, preferably professionals.
- Support and promote your co-parent’s (compatible or at least harmonized) goals for your children. Start with the goal of a loving and supportive parent-child relationship.