Essential Vocabulary for Successful Coparenting

Young mother looks into daughter's eyes while holding her on her lap.

Repeating these phrases won’t repair damage from conflict in a co-parenting relationship single-handedly. However, these words and phrases, if incorporated sincerely into a daily co-parenting routine, can be a good indication that co-parents have a strong foundation of respect to build on.

So if you’re looking for new ways to inject positivity into your post-divorce family structure, study this list of 6 essential words and phrases for successful co-parenting.

1. Please and Thank You

This may be a lesson most of us learn in elementary school, but it’s a lesson worth repeating periodically as we grow. These words carry a lot of weight in every relationship, co-parenting relationships included. But as our relationships age, sometimes these words drop from our daily repertoire. We become too comfortable in the daily routine and forget that these words still hold significant weight.

Because respect is such an essential part of parenting after a divorce, co-parents must work tirelessly at incorporating these basic tenets of polite behaviour into their communication. Remind yourself that these two words should be actively called upon in your conversations. Doing so can keep respect in your co-parenting relationship front and centre, where it belongs.

2. Still a Family

This may be more of a mantra than vocabulary word, but it’s still an essential phrase to keep in mind when thinking about your co-parenting situation.

When conflict arises, co-parenting relationships can quickly become adversarial in nature. But when co-parents begin to see each other as adversaries, rather than as partners in raising happy and healthy children, family connections and stability can be pushed to the back burner.

That’s why this mantra can help keep co-parents centred. Even when conflict becomes an issue, as it does for many after a divorce or separation, internalizing the fact that you’re still a family can help motivate you to find positive ways forward.

3. Our Children

Remembering that you’re involved in a mutual endeavour to raise happy and healthy children can help you come to the table in a spirit of cooperation. It’s also a good reminder that you’re in it for the long haul, so making decisions for short-term gain won’t be an effective tactic for long-term success.

4. My Co-Parent

How you refer to your former partner shapes your mind-frame and can have an effect on your approach to co-parenting.

That’s why referring to them as your co-parent, rather than as your ex, can be one simple way to set your shared parenting up for success. Using the term ex can lead to you defining a relationship around an absence or former role rather than through an active and current role.

Instead, practice working co-parent into your vocabulary on a regular basis. Your relationship with your co-parent may not look like it used to, but it’s also not an antithesis to what you previously had. Redefining your relationship with your former partner through your shared goal—raising happy and healthy children together—can keep your co-parenting relationship on a positive and cooperative path.

5. Mistakes Happen

Even the most thoroughly prepared co-parents will slip up every now and again. And because co-parenting requires a serious amount of flexibility, rolling with those mistakes is essential for keeping your forward momentum.

In order to roll with the slip-ups and small mishaps, co-parents must truly believe that mistakes do, in fact, happen. If co-parents approach their relationship with an aura of mistrust, however, it’ll be all too easy to interpret the other’s mistakes as intentional or calculated.

That’s not to say that the occasional mistake morphing into a regular pattern of ball-dropping should not be addressed. But when the mishaps are infrequent and minor, remind yourself that mistakes happen and move on.

6. Let Me Think About That

“Let me think about that,” when used to give you time to approach a topic thoughtfully and with care, is an effective way at defusing potentially volatile situations.

If a divorce or separation was at all contentious, the experience may colour the gut reactions and instincts of co-parents immediately after. Emotions are frequently hurt during a split, and that can sometimes make people ungenerous toward each other. So if you find your reactions in the moment are trending toward the negative or contrarian, don’t be afraid of taking your time (within reason) before responding to your co-parent’s questions or requests.

Putting these phrases to work is a simple step you and your co-parent can take toward a successful co-parenting relationship. The language we use to define and describe a situation can affect not only our tactics but also the outcomes. So while incorporating these phrases into your vocabulary will not perfect your shared parenting alone, they will help foster a positive mindset and cooperative approach to co-parenting.