As societal norms have evolved, divorce has become more acceptable. This shift has allowed individuals to discover different strategies for dealing with this life after this change, including the reality of co-parenting. For example, a 2022 Demographic Research study found that the likelihood of shared physical custody has more than doubled between 1985 and now.
Still, when parents go through a separation, figuring out the right way to co-parent can be difficult. However, understanding the advantages and drawbacks of the three primary co-parenting styles can be a good starting point.
Conflicted style: When contention is prevalent
Conflicted co-parenting occurs when separated couples have difficulty communicating. This style is usually unhealthy for children and often involves constant arguments and a lack of trust between the parents. Parenting this way can also cause children to feel caught in the middle, leading to emotional and psychological harm.
Still, some may not be able to avoid contention completely, especially if one party refuses to act maturely. However, parents may be able to make this type of co-parenting work better by setting ground rules for interactions. For example, parents can avoid conflicts in front of their children.
Parallel style: Separate but equal
Parallel co-parenting is a slight improvement over conflicted co-parenting. It happens when divorced or separated couples do not communicate much but still work together on parenting issues.
This style is common when there is a history of conflict between the parents and they feel that they should keep their interactions minimal. In this style, parents do not make parenting decisions together. Instead, they make decisions independently and stick to them.
The downside is that children may receive mixed messages and lack a consistent approach to parenting. Again, better communication can improve this situation. For example, parents might decide that discussions should only occur through emails or text messages where each person has more time to craft a balanced response.
Cooperative style: The optimal solution
Cooperative co-parenting is the healthiest style for children. Here, divorced or separated parents work together and communicate respectfully despite their differences. This style also involves a shared approach to decision-making and discipline.
Parents who engage in cooperative co-parenting put their children’s welfare first and prioritize working together. Parents can plan mutually beneficial schedules, serve as each other’s sources of support and help their children adjust to the new family dynamic. They are also open to each other’s suggestions, respect each other’s opinions and work to build a healthy relationship for their children’s sake.
Parenting is challenging, and co-parenting after separation raises new obstacles. However, by establishing a healthy co-parenting relationship, children of divorced or separated parents can experience a stable family life full of love, support and respect.