For coParenting relationships to work well, four necessary conditions must be in place.

1. Successful parents love their children. This sounds simple, but the love of children has to come ahead of petty and selfish behavior with the other parent. While parents benefit greatly from a good coParenting relationship, you are not doing this for each other. You are doing it for the children. Do you love your children enough to bite your tongue, to treat the other parent with courtesy and respect no matter how they treat you, to be flexible even if the other parent is not, to do what you can to make transitions go smoothly for the children, even if they are not easy for you, to share information with the other parent even though the other parent withholds information from you? Children are better off even if only one of the parents models social maturity and behaves well. Do you love your children enough to be that parent?

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2. Successful parents keep agreements. All relationships have agreements, some of which are obvious and do not even have to be stated, but some of which are not so obvious and come up. This can be tricky, because in many cases, parents have a history of breaking agreements so it is hard for them to trust that agreements will be kept in the future. However, parents can keep agreements going forward, and if they do, they will eventually trust that. Games have rules; rules are nothing more than what people agree to do when they play the game. Imagine what would happen if people played games but did not follow the rules (i.e., keep their agreements). There is no game; there is chaos.

3. Successful parents separate the problems of their spousal/intimate relationship from the responsibilities and tasks of the parenting relationship. This includes resentments, anger, guilt and other emotional patterns that were problems in the intimate relationship. A coParenting relationship is not intimate; it is more like a team. You do not have to like your teammates to be a good teammate yourself.

4. Successful parents are honest with each other. When people are honest, everything that goes wrong is just a problem to solve. When people are not honest, problems cannot be solved. Parents have to rely on the information that they receive from the other parent. For example, all parents have to teach their children to be reliable reporters of fact, to not only be honest but to be objective. Children start out with a fuzzy line between what is real and what is fantasy and spend most of their childhood becoming objective and honest. Children cannot learn this if their parents are not honest with one another. Like keeping agreements with a bad history, being honest with a bad history is tricky. However, parents can commit to honesty in the future even if they have been dishonest in the past.

From COPARENTING TRAINING WORKBOOK For Separating or Separated Parents by Kenneth H. Waldron, PhD and Allan R. Koritzinsky, Esq.


About Dr. Kenneth H. Waldron

Kenneth H. Waldron, Ph.D., is a psychologist in Madison, Wisconsin, with a practice focused on divorce. His practice includes divorce mediation, coparenting counseling, custody assessment, parent education, and consultation to courts and court-connected mediation and investigation services.