Top 3 Co-Parenting Conflicts and How to Resolve Them

October 5th


coparenting conflicts

The road to healthy co-parenting doesn’t follow a straight path; you’re bound to encounter some bumps along the way. At Koh-Parenting, we’ve worked with them all, and we can tell you that with an open mind, some creativity, and lots of collaboration, you can find your way to solutions. Without further ado, we’ve compiled our best tips of the trade in one post for you- today’s busy co-parent. Read on for our Top 3 Co-Parenting Conflicts and How To Resolve Them.

The Gist

  • Co-parenting is a uniquely difficult thing to do. Each of us brings our own experiences, biases, and perspectives to our parenting, and even in the healthiest scenario, parents can butt heads with each other. But co-parents must figure out how to do this while also coping with the issues and obstacles that led to their breakup.
  • Commit to putting your child first to lay a strong foundation for healthy co-parenting and decrease conflict. Reimagine the dynamics of your new relationship as “parenting” partners rather than “romantic partners,” talk about your expectations for co-parenting, and take care of yourself throughout the process.
  • Three of the most common co-parenting conflicts relate to (1) parenting style, (2) routine/scheduling issues, and (3) communication. You and your parenting partner can resolve these and form a healthier relationship by treating each other respectfully and working cooperatively to hash out the details.

Why is Co-Parenting So Hard?

It’s no secret that co-parenting is one of the most challenging endeavors any person can undertake. Biology has wired us all to be distinctly different individuals, each with our own opinions and priorities, and so we’re bound to have moments where we don’t see eye-to-eye. It makes sense then that things can get complicated when two people attempt to work together to parent their child. It also makes sense that when those two people are separated or divorced, things get even more complicated.

The breakup of a romance typically comes with some emotional fallout, and both partners often need time and space apart in order to heal. But as co-parents, you may not have this luxury; you must continue working together throughout your offspring’s childhood (and likely beyond that). The issues that caused conflict in your relationship beforehand don’t go away now that you’ve separated, so you’re forced to confront them repeatedly. You may be left with resentment or other strong emotions, which in turn impact your behavior. Furthermore, you may be wading your way through other logistical challenges- such as changes in residence or schedules. Eventually, you may also bring new people into your lives (if you date or remarry and bring children together) who change your family dynamic once again.

Your ability to collaborate respectfully and productively with your parenting partner plays a huge role in minimizing conflict. If you continue to argue often, undermine or speak poorly of each other, or allow unresolved issues from your past to linger into your present, then you’ll likely struggle more in your co-parenting. You, your parenting partner, and your child could also suffer physical, emotional, and mental health consequences.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure… or so the saying goes! Before we get into specific challenges, let’s explore the best ways to lay a solid foundation for your co-parenting relationship.

  • Make a joint commitment to putting your child first. Remember that your love for your child and desire to give him the best life possible will always be your common ground.
  • Reimagine your “new” relationship with your co-parent. You can’t expect to transition seamlessly from romantic partners to partners in co-parenting without considering your boundaries and expectations. For example, how often will you communicate, and in what format? How will you handle introducing people you’re dating to each other and to your child? Will you stay connected through social media? How comfortable are you doing activities together?
  • Devise a parenting plan. This is not necessarily an absolute prerequisite to effective co-parenting; in fact, some people are able to manage without an official plan. However, most need some sort of outlined parameters to structure their lives and hold each other accountable. Whether you do this with or without legal assistance is up to you and how much help you need to come to an agreement.
  • Get the support you need to be at your best. Even when you know the “right” things to do and want the best for your child, co-parenting is still very hard! You deserve support to help meet your needs while working on being the best parent you can be.
Parenting responsibilities

3 Common Co-Parenting Conflicts, Resolved:

Let’s dive in to explore co-parenting challenges and solutions. We realize, as always, that every situation is unique, and so will be your co-parenting journey. However, in our experience working with countless families, the following are three of the most common themes- and some of the most effective strategies for resolving them.

(1) Conflicts with Parenting Style:

Many parenting partners find that they struggle to reach a consensus on how to parent their child; in fact, this may have even been a contributing factor to their separation or divorce and rarely gets easier after the transition to co-parenting. Our parenting style results from our backgrounds, values, past experiences, and also whatever information we have acquired over time (as we have researched the topic or sought advice from others, perhaps). Even couples in the most harmonious relationships may have different parenting behaviors or opinions. This may play out in our approach to discipline, expectations of our children, and approach to showing love and affection.
What this might look like:
  • Differences in how you handle your child’s misbehavior
  • Different expectations and rules in each household
  • Variations in acceptance of your child’s emotions and opinions
  • Different opinions of “quality time” with your child
  • Differences in how you “reward” your child, or what sorts of gifts you give
  • Different ways and degrees of showing affection
  • Differences in how much you do for your child vs. expect your child to do independently
What to do:
  • Consult your child’s pediatrician for information on best practices in child-rearing (ideally, together)
  • Seek support from other professionals such as therapists, counselors, school personnel, etc.
  • Engage in self-reflection to determine and understand your own parenting style, including your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Engage your parenting partner in conversation about his/her parenting style and what’s important to him/her.
  • Work together to outline a common list of rules and expectations for both households- if possible.
  • Acknowledge that you both bring different perspectives and skills to your parenting and that each of you has valuable strengths to impart to your child.
  • Refrain from badmouthing or openly contradicting each other in front of your child. Instead, you can talk about “The rules at Mom’s house” or “The rules at Dad’s house” to outline what your child can expect in each setting.
  • Remember that your child needs a balance of love and limits. Try not to seek your child’s favor by buying gifts or giving in to your child’s every demand.

(2) Conflicts with Routines and Schedules:

Co-parenting often requires juggling multiple timetables and responsibilities. Coordinating it all can get tricky for everyone involved.
What this might look like:
  • Routines or schedules in each household don’t match
  • Differences in the degree of “structure” in each household (for example, one parent doesn’t have structured routines or schedules, OR one parent is very rigid with them)
  • Differences in adherence to routines and schedules: one or both co-parents may have a hard time following the agreed-upon schedule
  • One or both parenting partners frequently change the schedule (this could be the household schedule or the visitation schedule)
  • Disagreements about the child’s eating or sleeping routines
  • Disagreements about the child’s activities/extracurriculars
What to do:
  • Seek legal counsel, if necessary. If you and your parenting partner have a legal agreement, you’ll both need to follow it- and any difficulties doing so or requests to make changes will need to go through your legal teams.
  • Formalize your parenting plan and/or custody schedule: If you’ve tried to figure this out yourselves, but it isn’t working, then you may need to clarify your expectations and spell out the details in writing.
  • Revisit existing parenting plans. Re-evaluate your goals and expectations periodically as your child’s developmental level and needs change. If you’re not sure where to start with this, we can help!
  • Use a scheduling/calendar app or create a shared document with your parenting partner to record important dates and events.
  • Create a visual calendar or schedule for your child to help explain what’s happening and ease anxiety.
  • Engage in respectful conversation about your routine and schedules with your parenting partner. Share what you do, what works well for you, and what doesn’t. Be open to hearing how your co-parent does things (even if it’s different) and compromise in order to establish greater consistency for your child.

Looking for more guidance in building your co-parenting routines? Visit our  Learning Guides page on our website for a variety of resources on this topic.

(3) Conflicts with Communication Style:

Did you and your ex struggle with communication before you broke up? Many couples do, and they often find that these difficulties continue to plague them in their co-parenting relationship.
What this might look like:
  • Badmouthing each other
  • Using disrespectful, confrontational, or intentionally insulting language when communicating with each other
  • Issues with the frequency of communication: one or both parenting partners initiate contact too often or not often enough
  • Leaving out important details
  • Failing to respect each others’ preferred mode of contact
  • Stonewalling: refusing to communicate when emotionally overwhelmed or as a means to “get back at” the other parent
  • Using their child as a go-between
What to do:
  • Ensure that you both have each others’ updated contact information and preferences
  • Make time and space for more “difficult” conversations when your child isn’t around and when you’re not rushed; make an “appointment” to resolve issues rather than hashing them out at custody exchanges or over email
  • Pause and take a moment before responding when you’re feeling triggered or upset. Give yourself time to cool down.
  • Plan out what you would like to say in advance. You can even rehearse it by yourself or with a trusted friend or family member.
  • Seek support (from loved ones or professionals) to process your feelings and learn new communication techniques.
  • Refrain from blaming or accusatory statements that incite defensiveness; instead, use “I” statements in which you put into words how you feel. We can teach you how to do this! Check out our learning guide, The Power of "I", for more information.
  • Take more time to listen and ask questions; get curious about learning more from your co-parent’s perspective rather than focusing on what you’re going to say next or what your comeback will be.
  • Be mindful of your nonverbal communication; your body language and tone can send messages to your parenting partner, so make sure that those messages align with the intent of your words.
  • Communicate with your parenting partner directly. Do not rely on your child to deliver messages between you both.
  • Be sure to communicate positive things (such as what’s going well, compliments or statements of appreciation toward your partner, celebrations of your child’s successes, etc.) rather than always focusing on the negative.
  • Own up to your mistakes and apologize!
  • Draw a hard line on abusive behavior. The goal of healthy co-parenting is to work together, but this can’t happen if either co-parent engages in physical, emotional, or verbal abuse. If this is happening in your co-parenting relationship, please seek professional help. If you have concerns about your safety or are in crisis, call 9-1-1 or Domestic Violence Support | National Domestic Violence Hotline (, 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Conflict Happens. With Koh-Parenting, We Get You Back On Track.

Co-parenting isn’t a perfect science. There’s no one “right” way to do it, and there’s no “quick fix” for the problems that come your way. The good news is you and your parenting partner don’t need to be perfect, either, and you don’t need to have it figured out all the time! We hope our tips will give you both some fresh ideas. Stay committed to respecting each other and trying your best even when things get tough, and stay tuned to all the helpful information Koh-Parenting has to offer. We know you can achieve your dream of healthy co-parenting!

Feeling stuck? Next week’s post is for you! We’ll be talking about the Co-Parenting “Status Quo:” how doing the “same old thing” can hold us back and what we can do to initiate change.  Be sure to check it out!

Where you can stay informed on what's happening in the world of co-parenting and learn more about what we do.

By Koh-Parenting Services LLC

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