How to co-parent with your ex partner 

Co-parenting can be one of the biggest challenges for separated partners. That doesn’t mean it’s always hard or unpleasant. It can be a positive experience that plays a big role in how children grow and develop.   

But even if you get on well with your ex, it can take both parents some time to adjust.   

Agree on your approach

Work together as a team. This usually means making a few compromises and letting go of being right. Being united in your decisions gives your children clear ideas of rules and what to expect. It also helps them see a positive example of co-parenting.   

Try to be clear about boundaries. Getting the same message from both parents is important. This helps your child understand what they’re allowed to do. Come up with some shared rules for bedtimes, mealtimes, homework and technology.   

Think about how you communicate

Communicate when needed with your child’s other parent. Be open and clear about anything that’s frustrating or worrying you. When you’re talking to your ex partner about difficult issues, try to stay calm.   

Keep your child in mind to put them at the centre of your parenting:  

  • Think about your child’s needs and emotional wellbeing before any big discussions.  
  • Be mindful of what your child sees and hears, too.  Overhearing or getting involved in arguments can cause upset, anxious feelings and confusion. 
  • When possible, save your discussions about parenting for when you’re in private.    
  • If needed, agree at the start of every discussion to put your child’s needs first. This can help you both reach a compromise faster.    

    Learn about your parenting style

    Take some time to read and reflect about yourself and your parenting style. We all have our own experiences of being a child. Many parents bring these experiences into their own families.  

    Think about how you want to parent your own children. Keep in mind the adult you want your child to become. The way that you discipline and teach them will influence this.  

    You can also look into joining a parenting programme. This is a way to reflect and learn new parenting techniques. It’s a good opportunity to meet other parents and swap stories about things you’ve tried. Search online for your local council family information service – they can tell you what’s available in your area. 

    Put things in writing

    Write a parenting plan. This is an informal document that gives parents the chance to make decisions and record them.  

    Try to involve your children in creating this plan. Read our advice about what to include. Or download a parenting plan template from the Cafcass website. Put all financial arrangements in writing, too.  

     

    If you have concerns  

     If you’re unable to reach an agreement with your ex partner, you can try mediation or family therapy.   

    If you’re worried about your ex’s parenting style, start by talking with them about how it’s affecting your child. You can also get professional support if you’re worried about your child’s wellbeing and safety. Find your local children’s service, or contact the NSPCC if you’re concerned about your child’s safety. 

    Go back

    How to manage arguments with your partner

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    What can I do if my ex won’t stick to contact arrangements?

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    Co-parenting during lockdown

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    Helping your child adjust to separation or divorce

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