10 Co-parenting Styles ... With Tips to Fix What Isn't Working

01
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Co-parenting Style #1: Immature

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Frustrated with your co-parenting relationship? You might need to give it more time. Photo © Image Source/Getty Images

This step-by-step feature includes ten of the most common co-parenting styles. Read through them to find out where you see yourself and your ex right now. And remember that you don't have to stay with your primary co-parenting style. I've included resources to help you maintain what's working and fix what's not. So without delay, let's get started... 

Your co-parenting style may be immature if ... you don't have a lot of experience sharing parenting responsibilities and you haven't figured out yet how things are going to work. For example, you may:

  • Feel the need to check in with one another about the smallest of decisions
  • Talk multiple times a day or every day
  • Be undecided about how you're going to divide your parenting time and responsibilities

Is this you?

Parents stuck in this co-parenting style often feel: unsure, frustrated, and insecure.

What to do

Most parents experiencing this stage in their co-parenting relationship need to give it more time. Remember, too, that coming up with a plan and developing more experience as co-parents will help you both gain some much-needed confidence in your ability to parent together.

Dig deeper

Use the following resources can help you develop a stronger co-parenting relationship:

02
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Co-parenting Style #2: Contentious

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Photo © Image Source/Getty Images

Your co-parenting style may be contentious if ... you frequently argue and just can't seem to get along. For example, you may:

  • Stew over your most recent conversation
  • Secretly look for more valid reasons to be ticked off at your ex
  • Feel close to giving up on the idea that you can make co-parenting work

Is this you?

Parents stuck in this co-parenting style often feel: angry, resentful, and bitter.

What to do

First, acknowledge your feelings. Find a safe, trusted confidant (not your kids!) and unload. Some parents also benefit from speaking with a professional counselor or therapist.

Then, when you're ready, spend some time looking for the good in your ex. If nothing else, forcing yourself to find one positive thing to focus on could generate a shift in your co-parenting dynamic -- one that frees your ex to see the good in you, too.

Dig deeper

Use the following resources to move beyond the anger and resentment:

03
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Co-parenting Style #3: Distant

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Dealing with a distant ex? Remember that you can't control his or her choices. Photo © Digital Vision/Getty Images

Your co-parenting style may be distant if ... you rarely ever see or speak to one another. For example, you may:

  • Only talk to your ex a few times a year
  • Rarely share parenting responsibilities
  • Wish the other parent was around more for your kids

Is this you?

Parents stuck in this co-parenting style often feel: abandoned, alone, or detached.

What to do

While you can encourage your ex to be more involved with your kids, you can't control his or her choices. So learning how to cope with a distant co-parent may mean giving your ex less power to upset you. Remember, too, that you've got what it takes to give your kids what they need most: love, encouragement, and support.

Dig deeper

Use the following resources to make peace with having a distant ex -- whether he or she becomes more involved or not:

04
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Co-parenting Style #4: Ambivalent

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Learn how to cope with an ambivalent co-parenting style. Photo © Fabrice LEROUGE/Getty Images

Your co-parenting style may be ambivalent if ... you don't have a great relationship with your ex, but you're no longer bothered by his or her behavior, either. For example, you may:

  • Realize that you're no longer caught up in your ex's behavior.
  • No longer pay attention to your ex's activity on social media
  • Not expect your ex to run every little think by you for approval

Is this you?

Parents stuck in this co-parenting style often feel: unconcerned, serene, or numb.

What to do

If you started out with a contentious co-parenting relationship, then moving on to ambivalence can be a good thing. So don't feel that you necessarily have to 'fix' anything if this is where you're at right now. On the other hand, it can be good to realize that your ambivalence, itself, might be a stage. If you want to develop a better co-parenting communication, try reaching out to your ex about your child's progress in school or to make sure he or she has information about an upcoming event. Catching him or her off guard could open the door to mutual relief and a better co-parenting relationship.

Dig deeper

Use the following resources to cultivate a stronger co-parenting relationship with your ex:

05
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Co-parenting Style #5: Balanced

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Once you reach the point of having a balanced co-parenting relationship, you'll want to maintain it. Photo © Image Source/Getty Images

Your co-parenting style may be balanced if ... you communicate well and are both generally satisfied with your co-parenting relationship. For example, you may:

  • Have an established parenting time routine that's working for both of you
  • Appreciate your ex's role in your children's lives
  • Have worked though some negative habits in the past and gotten to a better place

Is this you?

Parents engaging with this co-parenting style often feel: content, confident, and appreciative.

What to do

For many co-parents, this is the end goal…the place they're trying to get to. So if this where you find yourself at this stage in your co-parenting relationship, you'll want to continue what you're doing. And if you've worked hard to get here, try voicing your appreciation 'out loud' to your ex. The journey was probably tough at times for him or her, too!

Dig deeper

Use the following resources to further develop a balanced co-parenting style:

06
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Co-parenting Style #6: Manipulative

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Learn how to deal with a manipulative co-parent. Photo © drbimages/Getty Images

Your co-parenting style may be manipulative if ... either parent is intolerant of not getting his or her own way. For example, either of you may:

  • Use time with the kids to control the other parent's actions
  • Refuse to compromise on anything, ever
  • Threaten to file for full custody or take other legal action unless certain demands are met

Is this you?

Parents stuck in this co-parenting style often feel: vulnerable, 'played,' or out of control.

What to do

Manipulation is a serious issue. If your ex isn't aware of his or her actions, try talking about your concerns openly. Share how his or her efforts to control you (or the situation) make you feel and why you'd like to get to the point where you're able to co-parent more collaboratively, as equals. If a one-on-one conversation isn't possible, or gets you no where, you may need to seek the assistance of a neutral third-party, such as a counselor or trained mediator.

Dig deeper

Mediation resources for parents who need or want the help of a neutral third-party:

07
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Co-parenting Style #7: Co-dependent

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Feeling responsible for the other parent's actions could be a sign of a co-dependent co-parenting relationship. Photo © Image Source/Getty Images

Your co-parenting style may be co-dependent if ... you feel responsible for orchestrating your behavior -- and your kids' actions -- to avoid angry outbursts from your ex. For example, you may:

  • Give in just to avoid a fight
  • Feel responsible for your ex's behavior
  • Regularly take the blame for things that aren't your fault

Is this you?

Parents stuck in this co-parenting style often feel: guilty, responsible, and scared.

What to do

First, realize that you're not responsible for your ex's behavior. Positive or negative, his or her her choices do not rest on your shoulders. But if you're truly dealing with a co-dependent co-parenting style, then reading this may not be enough to free you from the sense that your ex's behavior is really your fault. So you may need to consider speaking with a counselor. To find one, start by asking your primary care physician or a trusted friend for a recommendation. 

Dig deeper

Use the following resources can help you break free from a co-dependent co-parenting style:

08
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Co-parenting Style #8: Negative

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Your co-parenting style may be negative if ... you and/or your ex can not find one single thing about one another that's good. For example, you may:

  • Constantly find fault with the other person
  • Feel the urge to tell your kids 'the truth' about him or her
  • Find that you can't muster an ounce of good will for your ex (or him/her for you)

Is this you?

Parents experiencing this co-parenting style often feel: angry, stuck, and unhappy.

What to do

Moving beyond a negative co-parenting style usually requires you to see something positive in your ex. Even when you're sure there's nothing of value there, it's important for your kids to know that some nugget of the person they carry within themselves is worthy. When you're ready to explore something other than what you're feeling for your ex right now, use the resources below to get started.

Dig deeper

Use the following resources can help you move beyond feelings of negativity:

09
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Co-parenting Style #9: Abusive

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Your co-parenting style may be abusive if ... your ex threatens, intimidates or yells at. (And if he or she physically harms you, then it has definitely crossed the line to an abusive relationship.) For example, you may:

  • Fear your ex's temper
  • Feel the urge to physically pull back from his or her outbursts
  • Be wondering whether you need to file a restraining order against your ex

Is this you?

Parents stuck in this co-parenting style often feel: fearful, vulnerable, and alone.

What to do

If you feel that your ex is posturing in an effort to intimidate you and get his or her way, then you may want to refer to the tips included under co-parenting style #6: Manipulative. But if your ex has actually threatened you or become physically violent, then you should file a restraining order immediately.

Dig deeper

Use the following resources to deal with an abusive co-parenting relationship:

10
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Co-parenting Style #10: Nonexistent

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Your co-parenting style may be nonexistent if ... you have zero contact with your ex. For example, you may:

  • Never speak on the phone or in person
  • Not have your ex's contact information
  • Or, your children may have contact but you do not

Is this you?

Parents stuck in this co-parenting style often feel: ambivalent, sad, or angry.

What to do

This co-parenting style has a lot in common with #3: Distant. As much as you might wish your ex were around for your kids, you can't control his or her choices or actions. So learning to cope with this parenting style is more about letting go than about creating change. 

Dig deeper

Use the following resources can help you cope with a nonexistent co-parent: