What is Co-Parenting? Part I

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PART I: Co-Parenting Is for Every Parent

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word “Co-Parenting”? The first word that comes to mind for all too many is “divorce.” In the United States, the word Co-Parenting is thought of as a parenting situation in which parents are separated or divorced but still try to take care of their children together. However, every parent, whether living together or living separately, is a Co-Parent!

The common meaning of “Co-Parenting” for the layperson describes the relationship between two parents of children who are no longer in a romantic relationship but still have the joint responsibility to raise their children together. However, Co-Parenting does not necessarily mean that parents are divorced or separated. It can simply refer to parents and other adults who are raising children together. This is because all parents are trying to provide a safe and consistent environment to their children; and to allow their children to learn healthy self-soothing, self-control, discipline and empathy skills. These are vital ingredients in each family with children in order to create positive relationships and supportive environments for their children.

In many families and cultures, Co-Parenting includes other loving and trusted adults in the life of the child: older generations, a circle of family and friends — “ohana” is Hawai’ian, “kohanga” is Maori, “pamilya” is Filipino, “familia” is Spanish, and many more. For many families Co-parents extend to “Big Sisters/Brothers, teachers, coaches, and members of a faith community.

Why do you need Co-Parenting?

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), data show about 40-50% of married couples in the United States are divorced. Other families who live together are faced with similar challenges — ordinary developmental stressors; struggles for autonomy which can feel like rebelliousness against or even rejection of a parent; and communication is often a challenge across the life of the child from birth well into the ‘20’s.

There are many challenges for parents raising children, whether the parents live in the same home or live in separate homes. Differences in parenting styles, values, and beliefs pose dilemmas to every Co-Parenting Couple. With improved Co-Parenting, both parents can understand both themselves and their children better so that they can improve communication and build a strong and close relationship with their children. This solid foundation of supportive shared parenting ensures each child can develop to his/her/their fullest potential. This is why Co-Parenting skills are essential for every parent.

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