What is Coparenting?
by Karole Dolen-Proffit

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Co-Parenting is a term used to describe parents working together for the benefit of their child. Sometimes though, parents separate or divorce. They may not be together as a couple anymore, but they will always be together as parents. A new parenting style and plan will need to be formulated to fit the new circumstances. It is crucial to the child's well-being that the parents set aside their angers and differences in order to be effective parents.

Divorce is a very stressful time for everyone involved, especially children. They will suddenly feel a huge range of emotions from fear to anger to sadness. It is the responsibility of the parents to put their child first and save their own disputes and arguments for private resolution.

Some of the issues surrounding a successful co-parenting plan are custody arrangements, child support, visitation, educational and religious upbringing, discipline, parenting styles, and many more. There will probably be some disagreements on how these things are handled, but what's more important is how the disagreements are handled. Open communication and flexibility are the keys to making the plan work. Just a few of the factors to consider when formulating a successful co-parenting plan are:

CUSTODY & VISITATION

As early on as possible, parents need to make custody and visitation arrangements that are reasonable and fair for everyone involved. Consistency is extremely important. Let the child know what the schedule is going to be, and inform them of any changes to it ahead of time. When they are with one parent, open and frequent contact should be available to the other parent at all times. Remember to remain flexible to any necessary changes that are in the best interest of the child.

Some parents will feel the need to over-indulge their child during visits. However, extravagant shopping sprees or wild vacations to "win them over" should be avoided, as this can be damaging to their relationship with the other parent. Competing with the ex-spouse will only cause more stress, anxiety, and resentment. Instead, the visitation time should be used to get to know the child better, and to be the parent they need.

EDUCATION AND RELIGION

Whether you decide on public, private, or homeschooling, it needs to be agreed upon by both parents ahead of time, and arrangements made accordingly. Ideally the parents will live close enough to each other so that there will be no disruption to the child's education or extracurricular activities.

If the parents had been together for any length of time before the separation, a religious background will more than likely have already been established. Sometimes, however, it is a new subject, and will need to be discussed and agreed upon. The plan should provide for who will take the child to religious services, as well as state that both parents will be consistent in reinforcing the religious values.



DISCIPLINE

Even married couples sometimes have disagreements about discipline, and can have different parenting styles. Keep that in mind when implementing the plan. Be respectful of each other's styles, and do not do anything to upset the other parent on purpose. Again, consistency is important when it comes to rules and disciplinary methods for both households. For example, if one parent doesn't let the child watch TV after 8pm, then the other parent should not allow the child to watch all night long.



There is no "one size fits all" co-parenting plan, and it will need to modified depending on individual needs and circumstances. Custody and visitation arrangements will also change over time as the child grows older. Once a plan has been outlined and accepted by both parents, they should do their best to keep the child's life as stable and stress-free as possible. The child cherishes their time with each parent, and that time should not be sabotaged as a means to hurt each other. Even though they will have two homes after the separation, they should be reminded that they also have two parents who will always love them tremendously.

Remember, when a couple has children they form a partnership that will last forever, even if the marriage doesn't. Keeping that in perspective will help parents make choices that are always in the best interest of their child.



About The Author: Karole Dolen-Proffit is a website designer and freelance writer from Northern California. In addition to being a blessed member of a proud unschooling family, she runs several websites including http://unschoolers.com, Your Go 2 Girl, BaaadMedia!, and http://moonriverdesigns.com

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