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Co-Parenting Tips and Resources

What's included in this guide?

Co-parenting means sharing the tasks of parenting with another adult in your child’s life. Dealing with Family Court and co-parenting can be stressful for you and your child. This guide offers resources and tips on:

  • Positive parenting
  • Understanding your parenting style
  • Communicating with your co-parent(s) and child
  • Resources for parents

Why is co-parenting important?

Most of the time it is best for the child to have a relationship with both parents, UNLESS it is not safe for the child, or puts the child in danger. The relationship between adults who matter to the child has a big effect on the child’s health:

  • When co-parents have a cooperative, positive relationship, the child feels secure and has better self-esteem
    When co-parents communicate and can set similar rules, the child benefits from stability
  •  Children who see parents work together learn how to solve problems peacefully
  • Children who see conflict between co-parents are at higher risk for developing anxiety, depression, or ADHD

*Please note: if you are scared for your safety, or you are experiencing domestic violence, the tips in this guide may not be a good fit for your situation. Family Legal Care strongly recommends talking with an experienced family lawyer. See page 6 of this guide for resources and information.

How can I improve my child's behavior?

For children of any age, a good strategy for improving behavior is positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement means rewarding or celebrating good behavior. Positive reinforcement works because it helps the child learn the right way to behave. Positive reinforcement is motivating, and it makes the child feel loved.

  • Offer a positive behavior to replace a negative behavior. For example, if the child is drawing on the wall, give them a piece of paper to draw on instead
  • Give a high five, a hug, or a thumbs up when you see a behavior you like. For example: playing quietly, waiting patiently, completing chores, or putting a lot of effort into a hard task
  • Tell another adult how proud you are of your child’s behavior while your child is listening
  • Be consistent. It can be confusing and frustratingfor a child if they don’t understand your expectations

Stages of child development

Understanding your child’s age and developmental stage can help with communication and parenting. Here are some examples of different stages:

0 to 18 months

  • Basic needs (eating, sleeping)
  • Needs consistency
  • Getting into things, curious

18 months to 3 years

  • Potty training
  • Testing who’s in charge, saying no
  • Can follow simple directions

3 to 5 years

  • Seeks helps from adults
  • Needs caregivers to be present for comfort
  •  Likes to share and play games

6 to 10 years

  • Notices individual differences
  • Body changes rapidly
  • Develops sense of right and wrong
  • Expresses likes and dislikes

11 to 14 years

  • Sees parent’s faults
  • Develops strong peer relationships
  • Can’t see self except through the eyes of others
  • Explores and advocates for personal identity
  • Expressing opposition to parents is normal

15 years +

  • Exposed to intimate relationships and activities
  • Thinking about the future
  • Mood swings
  • Acting on future goals and independence

What is self-care and why is it important?

Self-care means taking time to take care of your mental, physical and emotional health. Self-care is an important part of parenting. This is because in order to care for your kids, you also need to care for yourself.
A few self-care ideas:

  • Give yourself permission to take a break
  • Try a new hobby, or set a goal just for you
  • Give and accept support from others. Spend time with people who make you feel good and healthy!
  • Exercise! Just 20 minutes of walking is enough to release hormones called endorphins into the body, which make us feel happy and reduce stress.

Parenting Styles

Everyone has a different parenting style. Sometimes parenting styles change because of how a parent is feeling, where they are, or what is going on in their life. Knowing what leads to different styles can help a parent understand their own behavior and support their parenting.

Brainstorm what leads you to use different styles of parenting. It can also be helpful to write down how you feel, act, or think when you are parenting in different styles.

The Restrictive Parent…

  • Requires following rules
  • Communicates in a one-sided way:
  • “I say what will happen; you listen.”
  • Does not openly show affection
  • Does not encourage the child to express emotion

The Permissive Parent…

  • Openly shows affection
  • Does not set rules
  • Does not encourage maturity or responsibility

The Uninvolved Parent…

  • Gives little attention and time to their child
  • Not very responsive to their child’s needs
  • May be hostile or put down their child
  • Makes rules and restrictions without explaining them

The Balanced Parent…

  • Creates a positive emotional environment for their child Encourages independence and supports individuality
  • Enforces clear expectations
  • Openly affectionate
  • Explanations are more detailed than “because I say so”

Talk about these questions with someone you trust:

  1. What parenting style does your child respond most positively to? Why?
  2. What parenting style does your child respond most negatively to? Why?
  3. What is one small thing you would like to change about your parenting?

What is my communication style?

Communicating (sharing information) with other adults in a child’s life is a big part of co-parenting. Everyone has a different style of communicating. Knowing how your style feels to others can help improve communication (adapted from NYC’s Healthy Relationship Training Academy):

Aggressive Communicators usually talk over others, might speak loudly, or interrupt often. They tend to use “you” statements, and blame others. How it feels to others: “I count, you do not count.”

Passive-Aggressive Communicators may avoid addressing an issue directly, but it still bothers them and can create problems later. They seem to be cooperating, but may be planning something disruptive or harmful. How it feels to others: “I count; you do not count, but I make you think that you count.”

Passive Communicators generally avoid dealing with problems, and do not speak up for themselves. They try hard to please others and sacrifice their own needs. How it feels to others: “You count; I do not count.”

Assertive Communicators are confident, clear, and in control of their emotions most of the time. Usually they do not interrupt. They stand up for their rights without stepping on others’ rights. How it feels to others: “I count; you count too.”

What are some tips for communicating with a co-parent?

A co-parent is any other adult in a child’s life who helps take care of the child. Co-parents can be biological parents, grandparents, other family, friends, or neighbors.

Communicating with a co-parent can be hard. It can help to:

  • Use a kind of communication that works for both of you. For example: text, email, or phone calls
  • Write down what you want to say before talking to the co-parent
  • Focus on the goal: what is best for the child
  • Regularly share information about the child’s education and health
  • Not talk negatively about your co-parent to your child. This may affect your child’s trust in you and the co-parent
  • Agree on routines

Co-parent Communication Worksheet

When I’m communicating with my co-parent, my communication style is usually:

When communicating with me, my co-parent’s communication style is usually:

I think my co-parent and I can improve our communication by:

*Mediation programs can help you and your co-parent make a parenting agreement, as well as custody and visitation arrangements.

What are some tips for communicating with my child?

Making time to talk with your child regularly can improve your bond. A bond is the strong emotional connection between a child and their parents or caregivers. If you are having a hard time connecting with your child, remember that there are many resources online. Mental health professionals can help too. Here are some tips:

  • Be available. When is your child most likely to talk to you? Is it during bedtime, before dinner, or on the way to school? Be available to talk during this time.
  • Talk about everyday things. When your child is used to talking with you regularly, it can be easier to talk about hard things when you need to.
  • Listen to your child’s body language and non-verbal messages, not just their words. Non-verbal messages are how we communicate without words. For example: facial expressions, touching, and tone of voice.
  • Be open to talking about all kinds of feelings.
    For example, frustration, joy, fear, anger, and anxiety. Remember, talking about frustration is different from being frustrated. This will help your child learn how to identify and deal with new emotions.
  • Children learn by imitating. Usually children will follow the parent’s example of how to handle anger, listen to others, solve problems, or deal with difficult feelings.

What can I do to help my child practice communicating in a healthy way?

How you communicate with your child changes depending on their age and developmental stage. Here are a few tips:

  • If you or your child are very upset, write down your questions and thoughts, and return to the conversation when you are calm.
  • Agree to put phones away while you talk, both yours and theirs!
  • Use a conversation ball or other object to help your child practice not interrupting. Whoever is holding
    the ball gets a turn to talk.
  • If your child is very young, use puppets or toys to help them talk about their emotions.

Resources for Parents

Mediation Services

New York Peace Institute
www.nypeace.org 
Manhattan Mediation Center: 212-577-1740 111 John St, Suite 600
Brooklyn Mediation Center: 718-834-6671
210 Joralemon St, Suite 618

Institute for Mediation and Conflict Resolution
718-585-1190, www.imcr.org
384 East 149th Street, Suite 330 Bronx, NY 10455

Community Mediation Services
718-523-6868, www.mediatenyc.org 89-64 163rd Street, Jamaica, NY 11432

Education Advocacy

Advocates for Children
Free advice and legal representation for families of students at risk of school-based discrimination and/or academic failure.
Helpline, Monday-Thursday, 10am-4pm 1-866-427-6033, advocatesforchildren.org

INCLUDE NYC
Special education advocacy and support for young people with disabilities and their families. Helpline, Monday-Friday, 9am-3pm 212-677-4660, www.includenyc.org

Counseling and Mental Health Support

NYC Well. Mental health support 24-hour hotline and referral agency. Call for support or for a counseling/mental health referral. 1-800-692-9355, nycwell.cityofnewyork.us
Or, search for support services online: nycwell.cityofnewyork.us/en/find-services/

Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Violence Services

24 Hour New York City Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-621-4673 (HOPE)

Family Justice Centers
Free and confidential service centers for survivors of intimate partner violence, elder abuse, and sex trafficking. Help is available in all languages, regardless of a person’s immigration status.

  • Brooklyn Family Justice Center, 350 Jay Street, 718-250-5111
  • Bronx Family Justice Center 198 East 161st Street, 2nd Floor, 718-508-1220
  • Manhattan Family Justice Center, 80 Centre Street, 212-602-2800
  • Queens Family Justice Center, 126-02 82nd Avenue, 718-575-4545
  • Staten Island Family Justice Center, 126 Stuyvesant Place, 718-697-4300

Family Legal Care encourages all individuals involved with the Criminal and Family Court systems to consult with a lawyer. This guide is not a complete list of resources. Talk to Family Legal Care staff for additional referrals.

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