Understanding co-parenting situations


African-American couple talks in kitchen

Co-parenting or shared parenting as it is more commonly called now is becoming the norm for divorcing couples and couples who are involved in cohabitation situations.  The marriage or relationship has ended but the family still exists. But what exactly is shared parenting? Shared parenting is when separating couples request the courts to award legal joint custody of minor children to both parents equally. Or in some states, the judges are automatically awarding 50/50 custody or better known as co-parenting or shared parenting.

If both parents get along, then sharing custody works. If the adults can’t get along, can’t agree or are hostile co-parenting is difficult to say the least. Good co-parenting and shared parenting takes teamwork.

Unfortunately in situations where shared parenting isn’t working the children suffer negative consequences of the adult’s actions. In other words the kids pay a high price because the parents can’t get along. As children’s ministers or people who work with the children, you will begin to notice the children’s behavior problems escalate.

In her book, “Co-Parenting Works!” by Tammy Daughtry she breaks co-parenting into three models.

Conflicted co-parenting is a situation when the former spouses continue to undermine each other’s relationship with the child. This can cause a lot of damage to the children in this situation as the parents are still warring and in conflict.

Cooperative co-parenting is when each parent seeks to put the well being of the children first. They communicate with each other about their children’s problems; coordinate house rules and adapt schedules to benefit the children.

Parallel co-parenting is the scenario where each parent does his or her own thing. They tend to ignore the other parent. Tammy says they don’t try to interfere with each other’s parenting nor do they try to coordinate schedules or parenting strategies. Any communication between the two adults is sent through the children. She also says this is the most popular type of co-parenting.

In my history of working with divorcing couples, co-parenting the parallel way hurts children the most.

  • It is confusing to the children.
  • It keeps kids involved a stressful life style in that they are responsible to pass messages back and forth between two adults.
  • When one of the adults gets angry or upset, the child is the one that faces the reaction, not the parent for which the angry outburst is intended.
  • The lack of communication between parents puts kids at risk as they move into their teen years, as they know they can get away with risky behaviors because their parents don’t connect with each other.
  • Children learn early on how to manipulate their parents to get what they want, not what is best for them.
  • Children will pit one parent against the other parent in order to get their way.
  • Children must constantly figure out the rules, schedules and life-styles of two completely separate homes.

If you are a children’s minister or church worker find out if children in divorced homes live with a custodial parent or if they are living in a co-parenting situation. It will make a difference how you communicate with the child’s parents. If it is a co-parenting situation, you will need to communicate with both parents. It will be imperative that you have both parents contact information. You will need to understand the living arrangements and who to contact if the child becomes ill while at church or church camp.

Try to get comfortable with both parents so you can

  • Communicate any problems the child may be having
  • Know where to send notes that need to be signed for a an event
  • Know who to contact about spiritual decisions
  • Know how to proceed with spiritual or denominational education or classes
  • Communicate with a child about family events or family situations

It is hard many times to partner with two-parent families. It may be even harder to partner with a family that lives in two separate homes and both parents are actively involved in the child’s life and making equal decisions about the child. But for the welfare of these children in your church it is a must you that you learn how.

Simply understanding co-parenting / shared parenting and how the system works will help you minister more effectively to the child of divorce.

Next up is “Co-parenting that hurts kids and what you can do to help”

If you have experience with co-parenting/shared parenting situations, please share your story with us.




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6 thoughts on “Understanding co-parenting situations

  1. It is a shame that children are always the ones to suffer from adults that can not grow up. First of all the adults get married with out thinking ahead jumping in and wanting the best of every thing right away these days. They do not date with respect for any length of time to make sure things are right before having children, getting a home and getting married all in the right prder and perspective.Reason irresponsibility. Once a family is involved and things get a little tight, they decide they can not handle the stress so a divorce is in order. Lets not try to work things out and figure out how to make things go more smoothly! Just stop everything , rip the family apart, find a new fling to take your mind off of reality and start over. Irrisponsibility, Your debts and problems are still there you have just chosen to ignore them and they will catch up with you, Meanwhile your children are suffering. then in Co -parenting it is so much easier to fight and plame the other parent for every thing that goes wrong where your child is envolved. Much easier then actually taking the time to be a parent your self and doing your part as you would if you were all living together. These children need their Mother and their Father , They need to feel loved and wanted each and every day. Not through a sometimes phone call or a few dollars sent . My message here above all is Love is spelled T.I.M.E. for all parents to their children when parenting together or co-parenting . You need to both put in your time and it must be positive loving time. not time bashing the other parent. A child needs to think both its parent are the greatest people they could have in their corner. After all God gave them to that child.
    Parents you are the adult , Grow up, take resposnibility. your child is a gift from Heaven on loan from God. It is Gods child same as you and God trusted you to raise it for him. Please do so with love , and unconditionaly.

  2. I so dearly want to co-parent w/my children’s father but he wants to parallel parent….I can see the benefits of co-parenting and believe co-parenting is sacrificial parenting and because I live with them and their needs it seems the right thing to do. In parallel parenting it seems to be more selfish and self first not focusing on what each child needs. The one thing we have changed here at home is looking at the rejection from His family and himself as actual protection from God. Their father does not co-parent or pursue them in parenting but we see God protecting us all at this time because what he has to offer, his obvious leaving of his faith, the situations and people he brings into his life, are not good for the children or me so God has turned their father away and limited his time to protect them and me. We are always open to communication and time but he has made it clear his involvement will be the 2nd and 4th weekends a month and Tuesday night if they come great if not great. No other time is available and when they do not come he will not pursue why. He is already setting them up for blame when he says I have made myself available but they choose not to come it is their problem if they don’t come. His parenting is fun and money. Nothing else. I am hurt when they hurt. I am exhausted being the only for them. There is no church support though I pray for Christians to come along side us,,,I am teaching them God is their Father and what He will do and has done for them. But, I am worn and only two years into this. His co-parenting would make my life easier, would heal my children, prevent other ways which Satan will enter their lives, but that is Satan’s point to destroy and He has started that destruction by devouring their father.

    • Rebekah, stay strong in the Lord. You can do this. Many single moms have raised wonderful God-fearing children. I know it can be exhausting, but soon enough your kids will be grown and you can rest then.

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