We Don't Have to Be Together to Parent Together: The Co-Parenting Communication Guide

As co-parents, you have a business relationship. The business is your child. Knowing how to communicate with your "business partner" can make raising your child much easier and successful. 

Tip #1 Devise a Co-Parenting Agreement
Don't raise your child blindly with your co-parent. Discuss the most important issues that concern your child and create a co-parenting agreement addressing these concerns. This will give both of you a clear understanding of what each of you want for your child and allow you to both follow a single set of rules.

Tip #2 Help the Past Remain in the Past
Forget, or decide not to discuss, issues you had with your co-parent in the past. Your focus should be entirely on your child and their needs now. If past issues influence the communication you have with your co-parent in the present, you will find that raising your child will be one struggle after another. Instead of devising new ways to raise your child, you'll get stuck on what you or your co-parent could have, would have, or should have done - all of which don't matter in the present.

Tip #3 Don't Discuss Personal Affairs
Do not discuss your personal affairs with your co-parent unless you know for sure that the discussion doesn't affect him/her emotionally. In some co-parenting situations, the couples are good friends and never had a romantic relationship, so discussions about who dated whom are accepted. However, in situations where the co-parents used to be romantically involved, dating discussions may cause jealousy and tension, neither of which is helpful in a co-parenting relationship.

Tip #4 Discuss and Then Decide
Don't decide and then discuss with your co-parent about something that affects your child. While you may be able to make many decisions on your own without consulting your partner, for some decisions you need to discuss what his/her views are on the topic. Usually, this has to do with the general well-being and future plans of the child. To keep your hopes from getting too high, always remind yourself that you must ask the child's other parent before you can proceed - that way you won't be too disappointed if he/she doesn't agree.

Tip #5 Compromising Is Better
In any parenting situation, both parents don't always get what they want in a decision concerning the child. The best way to solve this is for neither parent to get 100% their way; if both co-parents learn to compromise, stalemates will no longer occur, and both parents' voices will be heard.

Tip #6 Hide Disagreements
Tempers can flair when a compromise isn't met. If a heated discussion ensues, do your best to hide it from your child. This means that you may have to hang up the phone with a plan to call back when the child isn't around or schedule a meeting without the child present. Whatever you do, do not argue in front of your child. Children are intuitive and they know when there is a weak connection between people, which they can manipulate. If a child hears that you disagree with something the other parent supports, he/she will try to either win the disagreeable parent over, or side with the agreeable parent to attack the other.

Tip #7 Give Detailed Reports
When the child is with you, make a point to call the other parent to discuss what occurred during the visit. Be as detailed as possible, so everyone has a clear understanding of what lessons were learned, what has been affecting the child or other out-of-the-ordinary issues.

Tip #8 Be Understanding and Flexible
A tense relationship between co-parents can make doing things with your child much more difficult. If, for example, the circus is coming to your co-parent's town and you know your child loves the circus, but it is happening on a weekend he/she should have been with you, consider allowing him/her to stay away in order to go to the event. You can also suggest swapping an extra day, or plan something else exciting to do with your daughter.

Tip #9 Respect Your Co-Parent
While you want to be understanding and flexible when it comes to spending time with your child, you also want to be respectful. Don't get your child all excited about the circus and then contact the co-parent to see if it's possible to swap a day in order to make it happen. If the other parent already has set plans that can't be broken, the child will become disappointed and either upset with you for breaking a promise or at her other parent for not allowing her to go. All this does is cause tension between you, your co-parent and possibly your child. Contact your co-parent first and then surprise your child with the news.

Tip #10 Speak Parent to Parent
When you have a message to relay to your co-parent, refrain from using your child as a messenger. If the other parent is unavailable, opt to leave a message on voicemail.

In summary, the best situation is to have a child grow up in a structured and stable environment. Such an environment develops out of solid communication between, and from, the child's parents. When miscommunication occurs, a child can become confused and feel insecure. When two parents do not live together and don't see each other often, such as in the case of co-parenting, effective communication is imperative. Try these tips to find a healthy start to more effective communication with your co-parent.

Coparenting. It’s not a competition between two homes. It’s a collaboration of parents doing what is best for the kids.
— Heather Hetchler