Co-Parenting Communication Guidelines That Really Work

Updated March 8, 2021
Co-parenting communication guidelines

Co-parenting offers many opportunities for personal growth, and although it may come with its challenges, figuring out how to do so effectively is the best possible scenario for your child or children. Understanding how to create co parenting communication guidelines with your co-parent is a great first step in continuing to foster a safe, loving, and stable environment for your child or children.

Co-Parenting Communication Guidelines

Setting up appropriate communication rules, best practices, and guidelines can help you and your co-parent focus on caring for your child or children, while minimizing miscommunication and arguments.

Co-Parenting Communication

Co-parenting communication tips:

  • Don't begin a co-parenting communication interaction if you aren't in a calm emotional state, unless it is an emergency.
  • Be flexible about updating your communication needs and hearing your partner's communication needs.
  • Create a regular communication schedule and come up with a standard report that you give each other after each child visitation, or after you learn about any child-related update.
  • Come up with a quick update procedure in case there is an emergency.
  • Create and update communication rules together.
  • Agree to notify and respond to each other within a certain window for various scenarios and different communication methods (phone, text, email).
  • Do not include your partner or your co-parent's partner, if applicable, in this type of direct communication with each other. You can come up with separate rules regarding including step-parents or other caregivers if applicable.
  • Never resolve issues with your co-parent in front of your child and don't speak poorly about each other with your child. This is incredibly stressful and detrimental to your child's wellbeing.

Co-Parenting Communication Tools

Different co-parents will have unique communication preferences. It is up to you and your co-parent to decide which communication style or styles work best for you.

  • In person: Work on improving your communication skills as co-parents when you speak face to face.
  • Texting: While texting works great for quick communication, it's not the best if you are trying to resolve an issue or miscommunication.
  • Email: This is a great option for short or long form communication, especially if you need to maintain documentation of your interactions for court related reasons. Emails should have a clear subject line and focus on one topic if possible.
  • Phone calls: Phone calls can work great for resolving conflict that can't be handled in person. You may also be able to better convey your tone and intentions via a phone call versus a text or email.
  • Shared calendar: Set up a shared calendar where you can both organize and set reminders for child related care, appointments, visitation, etc.

Remember when communicating with your co-parent via text or email, that it's best to be polite, straightforward, and businesslike versus emotional. While you may be upset or frustrated with them, those types of conversations are best handled in person or via a phone call if possible, so your co-parent can better read you.

Couple looking serious

Co-Parenting Rules

You will both need to come up with rules that you feel comfortable with. Some rules to consider incorporating or using as a conversation starting point:

  • Stay calm and collected during the interaction.
  • If you feel overwhelmed, request to take a quick break (as long as it's not an emergency), let your co-parent know when you will re-initiate contact, then re-initiate contact based on what you told them.
  • Keep your language straightforward and avoid name calling, passive aggressiveness, sarcasm, cuss words, or anything else that isn't polite and appropriate.
  • Focus solely on child-related issues and needs that are current or upcoming.
  • Use "I" statements and avoid placing blame on your co-parent.
  • If an issue or misunderstanding arises, approach it as a team and come up with solutions that you both are comfortable with.
  • Maintain an organized log of your interactions if the court is involved in your child custody in any way.

How Often Should Co-Parents Communicate?

How often you and your co-parent should communicate is totally up to the preferences that you both determine together. You may think about setting up a schedule for typical communication updates regarding your child, and coming up with caveats for emergency situations, big decisions, and deadline related decisions. In general, it's best to update each other immediately about any new information you learn regarding your child from their school, counselor, doctor, etc., and after each parental visit.

How Do You Communicate With a Toxic Co-Parent?

Co-parenting with a toxic co parent is incredibly difficult. If the situation becomes dangerous to your mental, emotional, and/or physical wellbeing, it's best to get a professional lawyer, mediator, and/or therapist involved to help manage the situation with strict guidelines and oversight.

How Do You Set Boundaries When Co-Parenting?

When setting appropriate contact related boundaries with your co-parent:

  • Decide as a team how often you feel it's appropriate to contact each other, and which communication tools you each prefer.
  • Decide how to handle emergency or deadline related situations; be sure to discuss what to do if you can and cannot reach each other.
  • Discuss how to best resolve conflict in meta terms (when to discuss issue, how to best communicate your thoughts and feelings to each other, what to do if you can't resolve it after one communication attempt, etc.)
  • Agree to be honest with each other about your boundaries and discuss when your boundaries need to change.

Co-Parenting Communication Template

Having a co parenting communication template can help you track the wellbeing of your child or children in an easy to document format, while giving each other a quick update. You may want to include:

  • Feeding and eating notes
  • Nap notes
  • Behavioral changes and mood
  • School updates
  • If homework was completed
  • Doctor updates
  • Personal items with child
  • Additional notes
  • Anything else you'd like to discuss and urgency level

How Do You Co-Parent Effectively?

Learning how to communicate effectively may make co parenting a more enjoyable and less stressful process.

Co-Parenting Communication Guidelines That Really Work