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Coparenting: A Step-By-Step Guide for Developing A Plan

Family, Parenting, Therapist Guide
4 min read

Coparenting, whether or not you and your coparent are in a relationship, is challenging. Parenting brings up layers of experiences and emotions. Even in the best of circumstances, parents often have different experiences, approaches, ideas, and beliefs for what’s best for their children. One approach to minimize conflict and improve teamwork as parents is to develop a plan together

Here are some ideas for getting started:  

Step 1: Explore your parenting philosophies, values, and goals

Developing the bigger picture of long-term parenting goals and your philosophy as parents provides you with a framework for day-to-day interactions and decision-making. Consider why you decided to become parents and explore what’s meaningful in the parenting role.

Questions to explore together

  • What do we believe are the most important aspects of parenting?
  • What are we hoping for as parents? 
  • What do we want our children to learn from us

Step 2: Explore differences in parenting styles and approaches

How did you learn about parenting? For most of us, we learned from how we were parented. We have lessons for driving, as well as learning all types of subjects; however, parenting classes and skills are not easily accessible or offered. Many of us look to our parents and what they did and didn’t do as examples of how to parent. Exploring what worked and didn’t work for you as a child/teen is important. When parents work together to say, “Okay, this isn’t working, let’s try ______” with more facts versus judgments, that is more effective approach for your children.

Questions to explore together

  • What have we learned about the different parenting style options? 
  • Which ones best fit us, our philosophies, goals, and needs of our children? 

Step 3: Consider the individual needs of your children

Children have a variety of needs, depending on the person and the age. Infants, toddlers, school-age children, tweens, and teens have vastly different needs. Your parenting styles will need to be adaptive and flexible to accommodate your child’s growth and development. Consider each child’s personality, health, needs, medical issues, and/or mental health issues with how you may parenting children differently. 

Questions to explore together: 

  • What needs do our children have? 
  • How are we helping to meet those needs?

Step 4: Agree to the plan and adhere as consistently as possible

Children thrive from routine and consistency. When they know what to expect, they feel safe. Keeping your plan simple is key to make it as easy as possible for you to be consistent. 

Questions to explore together: 

  • What factors make consistency with parenting difficult for us? 
  • What do we notice that gets in the way of staying congruent with our values, philosophies, and goals? 

As the needs of your children change, the approaches you take will, too. Keep in mind you will need to review and update your plan for adjustments as your children grow older as well as when other circumstances in their lives change.

About the Author: Elizabeth Hinkle is a licensed marriage and family therapist, licensed in Virginia, Kansas, and Washington, and has a telehealth private practice, MH Matters, LLC. Elizabeth sees individual clients of all ages as well as couples and uses a systemic perspective to provide support for relationships, parenting, and family dynamics. Learn more about her specialities, view more content created by Elizabeth, or get in touch by visiting her Frame profile here.