5 min read
Toddler girl running to greet mother in doorway as she gets home from work

Co-parenting refers to parents working together to raise their children after a marriage or romantic relationship has ended. This occurs when both parents collaborate to do what is in the best interest of their child.

Benefits of a Child Having Two Supportive Parents

Two supportive co-parents can be beneficial in many ways. Support from both parents encourages positive child school involvement. Parenting can be difficult, but it is essential for healthy child development. Children need parents eager to meet their needs, care for them as they grow physically, and coach them as they develop emotionally and cognitively. Though one parent can meet the needs of a child, it is more impactful when two committed parents can help a child grow and develop in all areas of life.

Building a Healthy Co-parent Relationship

Building a healthy co-parenting relationship can be challenging, but creating a comfortable life for yourself and your child is vital. To form a healthy co-parenting relationship, work to dissolve any pre-existing baggage or conflicts between the two co-parents. Once you have resolved this baggage, focus your attention and conversations solely on your child. This means that your interactions and conversations do not revolve around your past relationship but instead focus on your shared love for your child. With healthy relationships in mind, work together to share information about your child. This can include sports schedules, school events, etc. It is also essential to make sure that you are communicating joint discipline. Parents should talk openly about healthy and unhealthy behaviors their children might display. Children can become confused when parents have different rules or do not discipline them as a team. An example might be that a child was caught sneaking out of their mother’s home, so their mother has grounded them, and the consequences are no friends or phone for a week. However, the child may go to their father’s house, and their father may believe that there is no need for grounding. Therefore, the rules and expectations are different in each household. This may confuse a child and create conflict between the parents. It is important to communicate and find common ground on consequences. A healthy co-parenting approach would be the mom calling the other parent to explain that her rules were broken and asking for support to help the child understand that breaking the rules has consequences.

Reducing Parenting Conflict

An essential part of healthy co-parenting relationships is reducing conflict between parents. It is in the best interest of everyone involved—especially the child—for parents to communicate effectively, even in the face of tension. This helps foster a safe and comfortable environment for the child and models effective conflict-resolution skills.

Following are helpful tips for minimizing conflict between co-parents:

  • Don’t Blame the Other Parent. Due to unresolved anger or conflict from the failed relationship, co-parents tend to scapegoat the other parent. Scapegoating means blaming the other parent for most parenting problems. This can create or keep conflict between co-parents.

Helpful Tip: Use disagreements to discuss solutions to problems within your co-parenting relationship. Try not to match the other parent’s level of intensity. Remain calm and use I or we statements. Using the word you can make a person feel attacked. For example, “You never help out when Jaylynn skips school. You are useless in this situation.” A more positive way to communicate the same feelings of frustration might be “I need your support when Jaylynn skips school” or “Do you have any ideas that could help us?”

  • Allow the Child to See Their Parent. When one parent becomes upset, that parent will sometimes withhold access to or contact with the child to punish the other party. This is called parental alienation and can get a parent into trouble with a judge if parenting guidelines have been established in court. A parent who does not allow the other parent to see their child is using parental alienation as an emotional weapon to hurt the other parent. Withholding access to a child can cause stress for the child and damage the parent-child relationship.

Helpful Tip: Speak positively about the other parent in front of the child. Keep parenting disagreements away from children. Allow the child visits with the other parent to help support a positive parent-child relationship. If the co-parenting relationship is hostile, explore family counseling, parenting classes, mediation, or parenting coordination (with legal counsel).

  • Make Joint Decisions. Joint decision-makers are parents who make mutual decisions in their child’s life. This means that parents discuss issues related to their child’s well-being.

Helpful Tip: Coordinating childrearing responsibilities is an effective parenting practice. Parents can inform each other of school activities and events. For example, parents can create a schedule to take their child to school, sleepovers, athletic practice, or 4-H. Keep track of the parenting schedule on each parent’s cellphone and add a reminder. Parents can also share information about grades and peer involvement and set rules to protect their child.

  • Share School Information. Parents who participate in their child’s education help to promote positive student learning and achievement. Parent involvement with the school includes participating in parent-teacher conferences, attending performances, and volunteering.

Helpful Tips: Stay in contact with the other parent about teacher concerns or praise for the child. Use videoconferencing such as FaceTime or Zoom when a parent cannot attend parent-teacher meetings or school events in person. Make sure both parents’ emails are listed with teachers. Ask teachers to add two copies of newsletters or other correspondence to the child’s backpack. Always keep the lines of communication open.

Tips for Being a Better Co-Parent

  • Communicate about your child.
  • Find common ground over school expectations and household rules.
  • Allow equal opportunities for your child to see both parents.
  • Keep conversations centered on your child and not your past romantic relationship.
  • Become a united front for your child and strive to always work as a team.
  • Take a parenting class to improve and learn positive communication and conflict-resolution skills.

Negative Co-Parenting Effects on Children

  • Children feel “caught” in arguments between parents.
  • Children express depression and anxiety by acting out.
  • Children may not be open to sharing their feelings.
  • Children blame themselves when their parents don’t get along.
  • Children feel like they can’t be a child and try to become the peacemaker or messengers between parents who can’t get along.


  • Arendell, T. & College, C. (1996). Co-Parenting: A Review of Literature LR-CP-96-03.
  • Bensman, S. (2018, April 9). 8 ways to deal with an Unreasonable co-parent. Sara Bensman Mediation & Consulting. Retrieved September 9, 2021, from http://www.sarabensman.com/blog/2018/4/9/8-ways-to-deal-with-an-unreasonable-co-parent.
  • Berryhill, M.B. (2017). Coparenting and Parental School Involvement. Child & Youth Care Forum 46, 261–283. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10566-016-9384-8
  • Buchanan, C. M., Maccoby, E. E., & Dornbusch, S. M. (1991). Caught between parents: adolescents’ experience in divorced homes. Child development, 62(5), 1008–1029. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.1991.tb01586.x
  • McLanahan, S., & Beck, A. N. (2010). Parental relationships in fragile families. The Future of children, 20(2), 17–37. https://doi.org/10.1353/foc.2010.0007
  • Daniel, G. R., Wang, C., & Berthelsen, D. (2016). Early school-based parent involvement, children’s self-regulated learning and academic achievement: An Australian longitudinal study. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 36, 168–177. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2015.12.016
  • Positive Coparenting: https://americanspcc.org/positive-parenting/


Children's Trust Fund logo

Peer Review markKatrina Akande, Extension Specialist, Assistant Professor, Human Development and Family Studies; Jada Henderson, Graduate Student; Amelia Moore and Melanie Savas, Undergraduate Students, all with Auburn University.

New April 2023, Guide to Being a Better Co-Parent, FCS-2735