Rules for Co-parenting:
1. Do let the other parent know about discipline, bedtime routines, sleeping arrangements, illnesses, extracurricular activities and schedules. If possible, both parents should use similar discipline at their homes. Consistency is good for kids.
If you cannot agree on everything, your child can adapt. Children are remarkably flexible and smart. Do not comment on the other parent's "household rules". You are different and will always have different wants and needs. Support the rules at the other parent's home. Remember that your child now has two (2) homes where they live.
2. Do keep the other parent informed of any scholastic, medical, psychiatric, extracurricular activities or medical appointments for your child. Encourage the other parent to attend and participate, if possible. Children want both of their parents to be involved in all aspects of their life. Figure out ways to work together. Some people talk once a week and other people text each other. Do what works for both of you. Be flexible. There is no right or wrong way to co-parent. Let the teachers and doctors know about the other parent in case there is ever an emergency.
3. Do refer to the other parent as the child's mom or dad in conversation, rather than using the parent's first (or last) name. For example, "your dad will pick you up from school today." or "I talked to your mom and we agreed that I would take you to school today."
4. Try to make all major decisions regarding the child together after talking to each other.
This includes decisions regarding your child's educational, psychological, spiritual and physical well being and safety. Listen to the other parent. Try to be flexible. Try to work together to raise your child. Children need both parents to learn and develop emotionally.
5. Do keep the other parent informed as to your current address, work information, telephone numbers, and email address. If there is an emergency, you want the other parent to be able to contact you.
6. Do keep the other parent informed if you are unable to pick up the child at the usual time. Be courteous so that the other parent can make plans. Remember that missing your visits with your child disappoints your child. Please try to avoid cancelling visits or commitments that you've made with your child.
7. Do not talk negatively or allow others to do so in front of your child. This would include belittling remarks about the other parent (and family members), ridicules, or bring up allegations that are valid or invalid about "adult issues". For example, no child needs to hear about the other parent having an affair. No child needs to know that the other parent is "worthless" and "no good". Many courts consider this a form of child abuse.
8. Do not question your child about the other parent or use the child as a spy at the other parent's home. Again, many judges consider this a form of child abuse. Plus, judges don't take a child's comments seriously -- remember most small children still believe in the Easter bunny and Santa Claus -- so they are not reliable witnesses.
9. Do not argue or have heated discussions when the child can hear them. This includes body language too - such as rolling the eyes or making inappropriate signs. These non-verbal forms of communication are upsetting to children too.
Remember that your child is learning how to communicate with others by your example -- is this truly what you want your child to remember about you? Is this how you want your child to treat you when they grow up?
10. Do not use phrases to draw the child into your issues, or make your child feel guilty about spending time with the other parent. For example, don't say "I miss you" -- rather use "I love you."
11. Do not allow step-parents (or new relationships) to negatively alter to modify your relationship with the other parent. If this new person is hostile, then be cautious about entering into a relationship with this person -- it sounds like future trouble!
12. Do not attempt to alienate the other parent from your child's life. It took 2 of you to create this child -- it will probably take 2 of you to raise this child. Learn ways of working together even though you are now apart.
There are numerous studies that show that having both parents involved in a child's life is very helpful to raise a smart, successful adult. Please work together to raise your child.
13. Do not ask the child where he/she wants to live. The child has 2 homes now! You might want to keep a photo of the other parent by the child's bedside so your child can say good night to their other parent each evening at bedtime.
14. Do not discuss any litigation or potential litigation with your child. Keep the child out of adult "business". Judges do not like people that discuss "adult business" with children. It is a child's job to be a child. YOU are the adult & you need to act like the adult. You will be co-parenting your child for the rest of your life. It never ends. Learn ways to get along and be civil. It does get easier as time goes on. Consider counseling if you cannot figure out ways to communicate without hostility or anger.
15. Your child watches everything the parents do and is learning how to behave. You are a role model for your child. Are you setting a good example for your child? When your child grows up is this the way that you want your child to treat you? You are creating your child's future memories, how do you want your child to remember you when they grow up -- pissed off all the time, fighting or someone that cared, loved them, and made them feel safe.
16. Do not make promises to your child and then not keep them. It hurts kids and they don't forget broken promises. Don't be the parent that tries to make the other parent break their promises. Work together.
17. Do not try to buy your way into your child's heart. What a child needs most of all is YOUR TIME. Just hang out. If money is an issue, then read a book or watch television together. Go to a park and play. Or just throw a ball out in your yard.
Ask your adult friends about their childhood memories of their parents. They won't usually remember how much stuff cost but they will remember when their parents lost their temper or the best memories of their parents. I'm sure that you don't want your child to remember you as always being angry and arguing.
In summary, there are no rules in co-parenting. Be flexible. Try different things. If you cannot figure it out, then try counseling - together or alone. Remember that you are parents -- but you are also human.We all make mistakes -- be gentle when the other parent makes a mistake because next time it could be you & you want the same courtesy extended to you. In life there are often "bumps in the road" - illnesses, layoffs, accidents,broken cars, etc. Work together. Be courteous - treat the other parent like you would any stranger you met on the street. In the long run, your child will benefit by your good behavior. Children are very smart and intuitive. They know what's going on around them.
Your child is learning how to be a parent by everything you do NOW!