Here is a list of many of the do’s and don’t’s of cooperative parenting.
DO encourage your child to spend time with the other parent.
DON’T deny access to the other parent for no good reason.
DO come up with a co-parenting agreement that allows the child to have a close relationship with both their mother and their father.
DO let the other parent spend time with the child when you are not available.
DON’T purposely schedule the child to be elsewhere when you are not available and you know the other parent is.
DO be flexible in making changes in the schedule. Children grow and change on a daily, monthly and yearly basis. Be responsive to their changing needs.
DON’T tell the other parent that the child cannot come to the telephone when you know he or she can.
DO encourage your child to telephone the other parent when he or she is with you. The other parent will return the favor when the child is with him or her.
DO talk to the other parent and work together to facilitate both parents’ time with the child. Be especially cooperative during holidays and special times such as birthdays. Remember you are creating lasting memories for your child; help ensure they are good memories.
DON’T fight over scheduling in front of the child.
DO speak positively about the other parent in front of the child; you can always find a positive aspect of the other parent.
DON’T bad-mouth the other parent in front of the child; no matter what personal animosity you have about the other parent. Children have an annoying habit of loving BOTH of their parents! Your efforts to alienate the child from the other parent may backfire on you when the child realizes what has been done to his or her relationship with one of the two most important people in his or her life. When you denigrate a child’s parent, you are denigrating the child, who is a product of both parents.
DO tell your child you love and cherish him or her, and reassure him or her that this has not changed due to the divorce.
DO praise your child when he or she does well or behaves well. Do so in front of the child and the other parent.
DON’T allow your child to denigrate the other parent. Encourage him or her to speak positively about the other parent. If he or she is having a problem with the other parent, help your child solve the problem.
DON’T discuss financial issues with or in front of the children. Do not allow them to see court documents or overhear you discussing the legal case.
DON’T leave messages for the other parent on his or her answering machine that might upset the child. Children often overhear messages, or may have access to voice mail.
DO make an effort to stay geographically close to the child’s other parent, existing schools, neighborhoods and extended family.
DO keep a set of clothing, school books and supplies, and your child’s favorite things at each home. Facilitate the child’s transfer of items between homes when necessary.
DON’T be petty or possessive about things you have purchased for the child. If you have given an item to your child, let him or her take it to the other parent’s home.
DON’T keep score on every little thing you pay for. Not every financial contribution needs to be reimbursed or matched by the other parent.
DO exchange school records and information with the other parent. If possible, ask the school to send duplicate information to each parent.
DO attend school conferences together, if possible. Teachers are usually very pleased to see divorced parents attend the same conference. Make an effort to attend as many conferences as possible. Talk to the teachers about your child’s progress, and frequently discuss this with the other parent.
DO coordinate the child’s school work and projects with the other parent.
DO remain in close contact with the child’s teachers, counselors and medical providers, and keep the other parent informed of any information. Try to coordinate appointments so at least one parent can accompany the child.
DO make an effort to meet your child’s friends and their parents. It is important to keep up on your child’s activities, especially when the child lives in two different homes. Let other parents know you are an active and involved parent.
DO talk to the other parent about problems the child may be experiencing or difficulties between you and the child. Children can be very adept at taking advantage of conflict and lack of communication between parents.
DO be accessible to the other parent. Give him or her your work and home numbers, pagers, voice mail, etc. If you don’t like to talk to the other parent, use letters, faxes or e-mails. Provide a list of emergency contacts for the other parent and the child.
DON’T engage in game-playing in contacting or responding to the other parent. Respond promptly when necessary. Be open and up front about issues that need to be discussed.
DO encourage the child’s relationship with extended family, on both parents’ sides. Be pleasant and cordial to the other parent’s extended family.
DO involve each parent’s spouse or significant other in issues relating to the children. Step-parents are important members of your child’s family: they serve as an authority figure, role model, and friend for your child. And don’t get hung up on labels. If your child begins to call a step-parent “mom” or “dad,” don’t be offended. Be pleased that your child can form emotional attachments to other people and that there are more people in the world who love and care for him or her.
DO coordinate with the other parent on discipline issues. Decide in advance on acceptable methods of discipline, and which methods both parents will use. Be consistent in both households. Present a united front.
DON’T undermine the other parent’s authority with the child. If the other parent has imposed reasonable restrictions or discipline on the child, continue those measures at your residence. Let the child know he or she cannot escape consequences of his or her actions by seeking shelter at the other parent’s home.
DO decide in advance on what extra-curricular activities the child will be allowed to participate in. Both parents should support mutually agreed activities. Both parents should attend the child’s events and show mutual support for the child.
DO decide in advance on how you and the other parent will deal with alcohol, drugs, curfews, dating, driving, clothing choices, allowances, home safety and security (latch-keys) and the child’s independence and privacy. Don’t argue over these issues in front of the child; agree on the boundaries in advance and stick to them. Agree to revisit them periodically, in special meetings with both parents and step-parents. Older adolescents should be involved in setting and re-setting limits.
DON’T discuss residual issues relating to the divorce, or dwell on anger or disappointments either parent suffered. Focus on the common ground of raising a healthy, well-adjusted child to adulthood.
DO discuss issues civilly and reasonably. Be cordial. Treat the other parent with kindness and respect. If the other parent is not ready to do this, reach out to him or her. Be the first to offer an olive branch. Children learn by example. Be aware of what messages you are sending to your child about dealing with other people.
DON’T make exchanges of the child a negative event. Don’t simply drop the child off at the curb in front of the other parent’s house and speed away. Make an effort to go to the door, exchange friendly words with the other parent, and wish your child a warm goodbye. Don’t telegraph real or imagined agony over leaving the child with the other parent. Your child should never be made to feel guilty about spending time there.
DO listen to yourself. Examine what you are saying and how this could affect the other parent.
DO listen to the other parent. Try to understand where he or she is coming from.
DO perform unsolicited good deeds for the other parent. You will receive return dividends 10-fold. Occasionally exchange gifts, even if token, at Christmas or other special times. The good will you create could last a lifetime.
DO practice the Golden Rule: If you have majority time, don’t abuse the position. Treat the other parent the way you would want to be treated if you were the non-majority parent. You may experience that role before your child reaches age 18. Think carefully how you would want to be treated by the other parent, and how it would affect your relationship with your child.