Co-Parenting after Separation

What's Covered

The breaking down of a relationship between a couple and the two individuals parting ways can be a hard season in any child’s life. Many are the times that the separated partners concentrate on their pain and forget about their children. The kids can become insecure by not knowing how life shall be after the separation of their parents.

Therefore, co-parenting should be considered immediately after separation. This spares the children from any emotional disturbance that may arise from the separation.

This article seeks to bring to the light factors to put in mind while co-parenting.

Co-parenting tips

Below are some strategies that you can consider implementing for successful co-parenting:

Bid goodbye to your past

You might find co-parenting to be hard if you are still holding hatred towards your ex. You can consider pouring your heart into someone you trust instead of passing the anger to your kids. Turning your back on your past will also give a clear environment conducive for co-parenting.

Your child should be the priority

The welfare of the kid should be far lifted above the differences between you and your partner.

Good communication

Proper communication plays a major role in successful co-parenting. As much as possible seek to communicate clearly and respectfully. This will not be the time to criticize, blame, or threaten each other. Seek after having a formal kind of communication.

Before you communicate with your partner, think beforehand about how they will interpret it. Will it sound to them bullish or unreasonable?

You can also consider direct communication instead of using a third party. A third party, in this case, would refer to a step-parent, a friend, or a significant other. Indirect communication may give room for miscommunications.

Be a good listener. Active listening is part of good communication. Allow your partner to talk uninterrupted and let them know that you understand them. In case you have a question, you can ask it but politely.

The Co-parents' Communication Handbook
This handbook will guide you in developing a child-centered form of communication.


This is where you give up some comfort for the sake of successful co-parenting. For instance, if your partner re-married and they want your kids to meet the other step-siblings, you can work out a plan to accommodate this.

Support each other

Working together and complimenting each other strengthens co-parenting. On the same note, children should not find any gaps in the rules you have set for them. This is regardless of which parent they are with. For example, sleep time or screen time should remain the same with whichever parent that the kid is with.

Planning for vacations and holidays

Don’t disappear with the kids to the beach or for a family reunion in the upcountry without giving your partner timely notice. Let your partner know of your exact location and which means of communication that they can use.

Also, try to avoid taking your children out for vacation or holidays when it’s your partner’s time to be with the children. It is important to also note that children like consistency.[1]

Create a parenting plan

Setting ground rules while co-parenting ensures that there is some order in the process. For example, you can agree on whether you will own up or share responsibilities when a child is with either parent.

Figure out if a child can still call the other parent when you are with the child.  Agree on acceptable ways of disciplining your children and about the children’s responsibilities at home.

However, these plans are bound to change with the aging of the children and the changing of circumstances.


Separation is usually not a smooth walk in the park. As a result, either of the partners can lose themselves in the process. Therefore, in as much as you are seeking after the well-being of your kids, your wholeness is equally important.

Help yourself to cope with these changes by talking out to someone you trust and staying away from self-blame. Be kind to yourself.

Working with a therapist

You will need to seek counsel from a therapist once your kids start showing signs of stress. These signs could range from sleeping disturbances, poor eating, dropping grades in school, moodiness, sadness, or being rebellious

Seek help if there are conflicts between you and your co-parent. You will also require the therapist if you are depressed and anxious. Bad mouthing your co-parent, seeking emotional support from children, and using your children as messengers to the other parent needs attention as well.

What to avoid

For effective co-parenting: don’t talk ill about your partner to the kids, don’t make the children take sides, don’t spy on your co-parent, and don’t keep the child from the other parent out of anger. But you can consider keeping your child from your partner in case there are security challenges.

Benefits of successful co-parenting

Effective co-parenting involves following common guidelines. Children obtain mental stability when routines and structures are maintained. Routines and structures enable children to predict

and understand their world. Predicting brings in empowerment and calmness in children.

Successful co-parenting benefits children in the following ways:

Defines commitment

The unwillingness of parents to lose focus on their children during separation shows just how they are dedicated and are fully committed to them. This also teaches the kids to value and to hold closely what they value in life.

Kids get to know that they are prioritized

Lifting the children far above the separation issues makes them know that they are indeed honored. This also shows that kids are not to blame for the differences in their parents’ lives.

The family unit as a source of comfort

Successful co-parenting makes a child know that regardless of life’s challenges, their family will always be an available shoulder for leaning on. Both the world around a child and the family cannot be in chaos at the same time. The family unit has to be a savior!

Enhances problem-solving skills and eliminates conflict

Co-parents illustrate that one can handle challenges with maturity and in healthy ways.


Successful co-parenting teaches children that they can still honor the people they are in disagreement with.

Common challenges among high-conflict co-parenting relationships and how to solve them

Separation is not an easy process especially when there are kids involved. In this case, plans have to be laid down on how the partners will continue performing their parenting duties. This also requires a conducive environment for co-parenting regardless of the disagreements that caused the separation.

Successful Co-Parenting
This is a perfect guide for creating a conducive environment for kids after separation

However, in high conflict co-parenting, these requirements only exist in the dreamland. Separation or divorce is a highly emotional process. These partners may be tempted to think that by their relationship failing, nothing else can work between them.

Below are some of the challenges that parents in high conflict co-parenting relationships face and ideas on how to solve them:


This is usually the number one challenge in most of these relationships. You might not stand the sight of your former partner nor want to hear their voice anywhere near you. However, communication is crucial in co-parenting. Phone or in-person conversations may lead to fights and therefore a parent might opt to stay away from the other.

When you are seeking effective communication ways, you can consider first laying down ground rules or boundaries. A majority of co-parents in this kind of a relationship prefer a written form of communication. This reduces the friction as it allows the other person to have some time to cool off.

Custody and visitation schedules

While your custody agreement could be legally binding, some occurrences might require some schedule changes.  For example, one parent might want to take the children out on holiday during a time that the children are supposed to be with the other parent. It could also be that one parent will be away for business and they want to leave the children behind with the other parent.

Usually, adherence to a strict schedule is favorable in a high conflict relationship. Therefore, instances of unexpected changes can cause conflicts. It is important that your initial co-parenting plan have provisions for unexpected issues on custody. But if the provisions were not made, you can calmly and flexibly work out with your partner how to be solving the changes.[2]

Parenting expenses

Financial issues are common among co-parents. In as much as your support agreement has indicated how you will share expenses, financial conflicts remain. Most of the financial issues that the partners usually disagree about are expenses on education, medical needs, extracurricular activities, and clothes purchases.

Although a support agreement shows who to take which expenses, a co-parent might choose to disagree on how their partner is playing their part. This can in turn lead to conflicts.

To avoid such disputes, you can discuss large expenses before doing a purchase.  Also, it is important to keep a track record of all your costs related to parenting and the receipts. You can also consider keeping a record of every payment on child support that you receive. These records are usually very useful in case there arise any conflict that will require to be settled in court

Co-parenting with someone that has Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Co-parenting by itself involves hard work. Co-parenting with a narcissist exists in its world with more hard work. While separation from a narcissistic partner could be a relief by itself, co-parenting with them might be harder. When co-parenting with a narcissist you can consider setting up boundaries to protect yourself while ensuring both parents are present in raising the child.[3]

Co-Parenting with a Narcissist
This guide will equip you with principles that will help you deal with the toxicities in narcissism while loving your children conditionally

How will you know that your co-parent is a narcissist?

Narcissist partners are usually identified by their following tendencies:

  • They possess excess feelings of being special and important. Narcissists think that the world only rotates around them. They feel better and more capable than everybody else. They will conduct a conversation in a manner that will end with them being the hero. They will keep praising their family to other people which makes them act in pursuit for the family to be so.
  • They have no idea of what empathy is. They are charming on the outside but deep inside they are empty. You will realize that they hardly understand other people’s intentions and motivation even the closest of friends. They will rarely recognize the needs of others.
  • They don’t mature with the passage of years. They will often tend to behave like people that are far younger than them.
  • To a narcissist, the law is below their feet. This makes it even more difficult to observe the boundaries that you have set. A narcissist will cheat on you and blame you for it.
  • Narcissists are often challenging authority and have no regard for professionals. For example, the diagnosis of a psychologist about them will always be trashed. This is because they believe that they know themselves far better than the psychologist. They also have poor relationships with their bosses as they are often belittling the bosses.
  • Let their sense of superiority not fool you! Their hearts are dominated by envy for anyone that seems to do better than them. If your co-parent is always seeking ways to destroy your success and cannot raise you again, he/she is a narcissist. Anybody around them doing better than them is always seen as a threat.
  • Boundaries are nothing to a narcissist. They believe that they have full rights to access anything they want and can go to any extreme to get it. They are careless with your feelings, privacy, and anything that has your name on it. Anything you own is theirs too by default.
  • They are often seeking after being admired by people and most of the time they have no achievements that warrant it.
  • Narcissists are arrogant and can unfairly step on anyone to get what they want.

The challenges you are to expect while co-parenting with a narcissist

While jointly parenting with a narcissist, you can experience several of these challenges:

  • They might disagree with custody agreements regardless of the benefits that will be accruing to a child. They will look down on your co-parenting efforts and break any rule or boundary setting.
  • They can use any chance to use your children to fight against you. They will bad mouth you to the children and be critical towards you in their presence. A narcissist can never love the children as you do since they are not empathetic. They just can’t love anyone unconditionally.
Co-Parenting With A Toxic Ex
This is a perfect guide that will enable you to know what to do when your narcissist co-parent tries to turn your kids against you
  • A narcissist co-parent might not observe a child’s appointments or routine.
  • They view their children as their servants who are there to serve their needs. If the children fail to comply, they are put aside and are henceforth seen as obstacles.

Tips on how to deal with a co-parent who is a narcissist

Now that it is impossible to stay away from your narcissist co-parent, below are some tips on how to navigate through and have a successful co-parenting experience:

Put into place clear communication boundaries

Your narcissist partner thrives in annoying you and seeking any tiny opportunity to blame you.  Ensure that you don’t give room for entertaining that by restricting your communication to emails or texts. Getting on a phone call with them has a high probability of birthing a heated argument. Mail or text form of communication gives you a good amount of time to carefully select what to respond to, and how to respond in a way that no temperaments will be awakened.

Create a detailed schedule and keep your distance

Ensure that you write down the particular days that a parent is going to be with the children. Put every single important detail into writing to erase any opportunity for disagreements. Include details of vacations and appointments of the children. This way, all communications will be based on fulfilling commitments and observing schedules and not on fights. If they pull you towards a conflict, opt not to participate. If they decide not to keep their part of the agreement, turn down their expectation for an argument.

Minimize your expectations about your partner

Spend more of your time developing yourself into a better parent and expect nothing from your narcissist co-parent. Be the pillar holding your children since your partner cannot pass any important values to the children. This reduces the vulnerability of your children towards your partner’s negative influences. This also makes you a perfect role model to your children as they learn from you how to handle challenges wisely and with calmness.

Request the court to provide you with a parent coordinator

If your narcissist co-parent is extremely abusive, then it’s proper to engage the services of a legal third party. Since nothing can be agreed upon between you and your co-parent, all communication is managed by the parent coordinator.

Parent coordinators are highly trained people that are certified to handle all communications relating to high conflict parenting. They help to reduce stress and anxiety in you and your children.

Keep complete records

Narcissists are serial liars. This trait is deeply etched in their blood and they can manipulate even a court to work against you. To be on the safe side always, keep records. Save all your conversations and present them to an attorney whenever required.[4]

Get a counselor for your child

In as much as you have tried to keep your children from the negative aspects of their narcissist co-parent, children will always be able to tell when something is amiss. A child hardly has any ability to cope with the problems facing their parents.

According to research conducted by the Statista Research department in December 2019, it indicated that complicated family relationships were the key reasons why a majority of people contacted Childline in the United Kingdom.

Therefore, it is important that your child see a counselor that specifically works with children that are being raised amid high conflicts.

Get yourself a support system

Choose not to be an island on yourself where possible. Even the strongest have their weak points. For this reason, reach out to your family or close friends for support.

A narcissist co-parent will always seek to make you feel that you don’t have what it takes to do parenting successively. They are not even afraid of destroying a child’s feelings. A great support system will protect you and your children against any wicked scheme the partner might try to bring in.

Take good care of yourself

Co-parenting with a narcissist ex isn’t an easy journey. Therefore, you need to be completely whole to handle it. Seek to have immunity against the negativity of your partner such that no amount of disagreement can ruin your peace.

Keep your emotions under a lock and key

A narcissist co-parent will always be in pursuit of tossing your emotions however they want. They expect an outburst from this and this is exactly what you will not give them.

Final thoughts

Co-parenting after separation is rarely an easy task but with the above tips, it is doable. The major requirements for a successful co-parenting experience are effective communication and a parenting plan. The goal of co-parenting is the healthy well-being of the children involved.

It is crucial that you don’t lose yourself in the process either. You need to be whole and strong for the sake of your children. Knowing the character of your co-parent is important as you will learn how to handle them and understand why they behave in certain ways.

[1] Galper, Miriam. “Co-Parenting: Sharing Your Child Equally. A Source Book for the Separated or Divorced Family.” (1978).

[2] Hardesty, Jennifer, and Lawrence. “How women make custody decisions and manage to co-parent with abusive former husbands.” Journal of social and personal relationships 23.4 (2006): 543-563.

[3] Mandarino, Kelly, Marsha, and Linda. “Co‐parenting in a highly conflicted separation/divorce: Learning about parents and their experiences of parenting coordination, legal, and mental health interventions.” 

[4] Baum, Nehami, and Dan Shnit. “Divorced parents’ conflict management styles: Self-differentiation and narcissism.” Journal of Divorce & Remarriage 39.3-4 (2003): 37-58.

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Diana Lucas

Diana Lucas

Hi, Diana here. Welcome to my blog and hope you like my sharing. I am a mother of 2 boys, 3 years old and a 1 year old. I dedicate my career in child development research and I focus on parenting tips, positive parenting, educational toys for my babies. Your time here means a lot to me! Diana A. Lucas