6 Signs of Healthy Coparenting

Roughly 23% of children in the country live in a home with just one of their parents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This percentage continues to increase. These situations can be damaging to children in the absence of healthy coparenting. It’s imperative that parents make healthy coparenting a priority that will help minimize stress that can help at times when there isn’t healthy coparenting. The good news is that there are ways to engage in healthy coparenting.

“All of the research and statistics overwhelmingly demonstrate that children need both parents fully engaged in their upbringing and lives,” explains Dr. Joel N. Myers, founder of Dads’ Resource Center, an organization that provides help for separated or divorced fathers. “Our culture desperately needs to reset in a way that reemphasizes fatherhood. It is a disservice to our mothers and fathers, and most importantly to our children, when fathers are kept out of the equation.”

One way that people can improve their healthy coparenting skills is to practice mindfulness. Those who practice mindfulness are more focused on the here and now, instead of being caught up in the emotions of what happened before and what might happen in the future. They are also less reactive and tend to have less stress. A study published in the August 2021 issue of the journal Family Process looked at how mindfulness impacts coparenting. Their research showed that increasing mindfulness can promote meaningful change within the family system and can lead to improvements in coparenting and parent-child interactions.

According to Myers, there are six signs of healthy coparenting:

Kids come first. The most important part of coparenting is that both parents agree that the child comes first. The relationship that the parents have that point is to ensure that they do their best for their child. A healthy sign of coparenting is seeing both parents attend an event for the child, where they are near each other, even if they are not together.

Parents agree. While parents may not see the same way on everything, Myers says, coparents need to agree on the major issues. These include discipline and health. If both parents are on the same page about major issues it will go a long way toward avoiding controversy, and will help the child know their boundaries.

Flexibility is allowed. Having set schedules can help with predictability, but there should be room for unplanned events – a family visit from out of town, for example. Demonstrating flexibility is healthy for children because it shows them that people can compromise and will work together.

Respect is shown. Healthy coparenting means being courteous to one another in front of the child. The kids learn how to treat others by what their parents do. If parents treat each other with respect, that teaches the child to treat others with respect as well.

Kids get time. Both parents need to have time with the child, Myers says. Far too often, one parent will try to get most of the time, leaving the other parent with very little. While this may feel like success, because it’s punishing the other parent, it’s not. It’s the child who is being punished and will suffer.

Communication is key. Healthy coparenting requires there be an open line of communication. Parents need to communicate with each other, and kids need to have constant access to both parents, just as they would if everyone lived under the same roof.

“Parenting is a two-person job,” says Dads’ Resource Center Executive Director Jeff Steiner. “Even in a separated family, both parents should view the other parent as an equal partner in the upbringing of their children. More than anything else, children want and need both of their parents actively engaged throughout their childhood to have the best chance to be successful in life.”

For more about the Dads’ Resource Center, click here.

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