Co-parenting is a journey that presents its own unique set of challenges. At its core however, is prioritizing the well-being of children. When parents separate or divorce, it becomes essential to establish a co-parenting dynamic that fosters a healthy and supportive environment for children to thrive. But what do children themselves have to say about co-parenting? This blog explores valuable insights from kids about what they need in co-parenting.

While this article focuses on cooperative co-parenting and provides helpful tips to make it work, it is essential to note that if your children are experiencing domestic violence, including non-physical violence or post-separation abuse, the following information may not be suitable for you and could increase your risk of further abuse. In these situations, educate yourself about domestic violence and post-separation abuse.

Consistent Communication

Kids want consistent and effective communication between their parents, and their reasoning is solid. Consistent and effective communication helps them feel emotionally secure and reassured that their parents are working together, even living in separate households. Good communication provides children with a sense of stability, clarity, and comfort. It reduces uncertainty and the anxiety that can arise from a lack of information or the confusion created when “the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing”.

Children express that they do not want to be the go between or messengers on behalf of their parents. They feel burdened by this responsibility and want to avoid situations where they might upset one or both. In addition, children are not well equipped to serve as liaisons between their parents. They desire a co-parenting environment where communication flows directly between their parents, allowing them to focus on being children and not assuming adult responsibilities.

Children want their parents to share regular updates about their activities, achievements, challenges, and any relevant information that the other parent should know. These updates ensure that both parents are aware of important aspects of their children’s lives and make children feel valued. It helps assure them that their parenting “team” is, indeed, that…a team. In addition, children express the need for their parents to coordinate their schedules and events. This coordination helps them navigate their routines and schedules more smoothly.

Parents can utilize various methods such as email, text messages, phone calls, shared calendars, in-person meetings, or co-parenting apps to meet these communication needs. The choice of communication method should be based on what works best for the specific co-parenting relationship.

Respectful Behaviour

Children deeply value when their parents treat each other respectfully, even after their relationship ends. They express a need for parents who can put their differences aside and interact positively. They want co-parents who are supportive and patient with each other, give each other the benefit of the doubt, and don’t assume negative intent or incompetence.

Children are sensitive to tension and easily pick up on the tension between their parents. Even unspoken tension between co-parents can be a significant source of anxiety for children. It creates an atmosphere of uncertainty and unease, impacting their daily lives. Children are perceptive and attuned to their parents’ emotional dynamics, and they may internalize this tension, leading to increased stress and emotional discomfort.

Respectful co-parenting has numerous benefits for children. When parents speak kindly to each other, it creates a positive atmosphere that children thrive in. They find it comforting when they witnessing their parents communicate without arguing or belittling one another. It’s important to note that respectful co-parenting doesn’t mean that co-parents should never disagree. That wouldn’t be realistic. However, when disagreements arise, parents should strive to handle them respectfully, away from their children’s earshot and without involving them.

Children want their parents to treat each other respectfully, even amidst disagreements. Therefore, prioritizing respectful co-parenting is vital for fostering the emotional well-being of children.

Keep Them Out of the Middle

Children want loving relationships with both parents without being burdened by their conflicts. Children want to feel safe and secure in both households. They want their parents to prioritize their well-being and shield them from undue tension, hostility, or resentment between co-parents.

Kids don’t want to be involved in their parents’ arguments or disagreements and do not want to be put in a position to choose sides. They feel immense pressure and stress when expected to take one parent’s side over the other.

Most kids find it distressing and uncomfortable to be caught in such conflicts. They feel torn, conflicted, and confused when they witness or are involved in their parents’ conflicts. They want clarity and stability in their lives, free from the emotional turmoil caused by their parents’ disagreements.

Research consistently shows that children who feel in the middle of their parent’s conflicts experience detrimental effects on their well-being. We see a range of adverse outcomes in these situations, including stress, feelings of insecurity, self-blame, a sense of helplessness, concerns for physical safety, and feelings of rejection or neglect. The presence of frequent parental conflict creates an environment that is harmful to children’s emotional and psychological development.

Children, especially adolescents and teens, can lose respect for their parents when parents constantly fight and engage in negative behaviours. Fighting can erode the trust and admiration that children have for their parents. In addition, when children see their parents engaging in disrespectful or hurtful actions towards each other, it can undermine their perception of their parents as role models and authority figures.

Stability and Routine

Consistency between homes is important, especially during a child’s early years. Children need their parents to do their best to find similar routines, rules, and expectations to provide them stability and security. When children experience consistency between their parent’s homes, it helps them navigate their daily lives more easily and confidently. That is because knowing what to expect contributes to their overall emotional security. Consistency also helps ease the transition between co-parents’ homes. Children encountering similar rules and expectations minimizes confusion and adjustment difficulties, and they adapt easier to each household’s routines with less stress. In addition, consistency between homes provides children with clear guidance on what is acceptable in both houses. It fosters a sense of discipline and teaches them to navigate boundaries consistently.

However, complete uniformity is not likely to happen and is not always feasible, realistic, or necessary. Unique rules and expectations are perfectly fine. Strive for consistency and predictability in your own home. Getting fixated on everything being the same between homes can throw amicable co-parenting off track. The key is avoiding conflict and making the other co-parent, or your children feel that one parent is wrong for their approach. Children benefit from seeing their parents handle differences maturely and harmoniously.

Quality Time With Both Parents

Even after separation, children still have one family that includes both co-parents. Although the romantic relationship between co-parents has changed or ended, the bond and connection between the children and each parent remain intact. This enduring bond between parents and children forms the foundation of their family unit, extending beyond the changes in the parent’s relationship. Co-parents need to recognize and acknowledge this ongoing connection, as it provides a sense of stability, belonging, identity and support for children. 

While the parents may no longer have a partnership, their role as parents continues and is vital in their children’s lives. 

Sometimes when parents separate, they become fixated on ensuring they have “equal” parenting time. Do not step into this co-parenting trap or involve your children in it. Love, connection and significance do not require equal parenting time. Before the separation, neither parent nor child tracked parenting time to ensure that it was equal. Measuring the value, connection, and influence of parenting based on hours, days, or overnights can lead to unnecessary conflicts and tensions. Instead, focus on quality time with your children rather than getting caught up in equal time.

Inclusion in Decision Making

Kids appreciate being involved and having a say in matters directly impacting their lives. Whether it’s decisions about the parenting schedule, education, extracurricular activities, or other important aspects of their lives, kids want their parents to consider their opinions and preferences. Giving children a voice allows them to feel heard and acknowledged. When parents listen attentively to their children’s perspectives and genuinely consider their views and feelings, it fosters a sense of empowerment and mutual respect both between parent and child and within the co-parenting dynamic.

Open and Honest Discussions

Children highly value honest and open discussions. Co-parents need to engage in age-appropriate conversations with their children about their family situation. Children want their parents to be honest about their well-being, challenges, and decisions that affect them. However, co-parents need to communicate in a way children can understand, avoiding discussions of adult issues or conflicts. Age-appropriate discussions do not mean sharing excessive details or involving children in adult matters.

Children need reassurance that they are not responsible for the separation or divorce. They need a safe place to express their feelings about the separation, the divorce, their other parent, their struggles, sadness, anger, etc. They need to know their parents will not criticize or personalize what they hear. Sometimes this can be hard to do if a parent feels guilty about the separation or struggles with negative feelings about their co-parent. However, do not underestimate the value of simply listening to your kids. Allow them to express themselves without interruption or judgment and don’t take what they say personally. Sometimes, they just need a listening ear and emotional support. It can be helpful to ask your children directly if they want you to listen or want your advice as well. Respecting their preferences and providing them with a safe, non-judgmental space to share their thoughts and feelings fosters a sense of trust and understanding and shows that you are there for them and can put your emotions aside to tend to theirs.

Open and honest communication with your children also means you will inform them in advance about significant changes that will impact their lives, such as a parent moving or getting remarried. Keep them updated about important decisions so they have the necessary information to understand and participate in discussions. By maintaining transparency and providing appropriate explanations, parents can help alleviate some of the anxiety children may experience in separated families.

Flexibility and Adaptability

Kids appreciate when their parents adjust schedules or arrangements when necessary. When parents are willing to adjust plans and show flexibility, it demonstrates responsiveness and attentiveness to children’s reality. Flexibility allows children to participate in various activities and events without feeling restricted or limited by rigid schedules. It enables them to explore their interests, engage in extracurricular activities, and spend quality time with both parents. In addition, flexibility allows for smoother transitions, reduces stress, and promotes stability in the child’s life. When parents are rigid, children notice and want things to be different.

Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Kids want their parents to be okay during the separation or divorce process. It’s natural for parents to experience a range of emotions, such as anger, grief, betrayal, worry and hurt during this time. It’s crucial to acknowledge and address these emotions to find inner peace and hope for the future. Unresolved negative feelings can harm the co-parenting relationship. By managing and resolving these emotional undercurrents, parents can minimize unwelcome influence on co-parenting decisions and interactions.

It is important to remember that children should not bear the burden of their parent’s emotional problems. During the separation or divorce process, be mindful of this and avoid relying on your children for emotional support. Instead, seek help from other adults such as friends, family, or professionals who can provide guidance and understanding.

Reassure your children that they are not responsible for the separation or divorce, or for making you feel better. By shielding them from the weight of your emotional struggles, you allow them to focus on their well-being and maintain healthy boundaries.

Quality Time

One of the most consistent messages to parents from children, whether in co-parenting situations or not, is to make time for them. Kids value quality time with their parents where they are fully present and engaged, away from distractions like phones or work-related matters. Children want to experience their parent’s genuine interest in them, their activities, hobbies, and stories and actively participate in their play and exploration.

Children want their parents to recognize and celebrate their achievements. Whether it’s a small accomplishment or a significant milestone, acknowledging their efforts and showing genuine pride in their successes fosters a sense of validation and encouragement.

Co-parents must remember to not let everything revolve around divorce. Engage with your children by tapping into their lives beyond the separation. Take a genuine interest in their opinions, views about the world, friendships and personal experiences. Actively listen to them, engage in meaningful conversations, and keep your promises. Make them feel heard and valued.

Living between two homes and adjusting to separation can be hard. It is important to make room for fun. Incorporate enjoyable activities into your time together. Fun and laughter are essential elements of a child’s life and ensure they continue to experience joy despite the challenges of divorce.

By prioritizing meaningful and quality time with your children, you create opportunities to deepen your connection, foster their emotional well-being, and build a solid foundation of trust and love.


Co-parenting is a journey that requires empathy, understanding, and a focus on children’s best interests. Parents can learn a great deal and serve their children well by heeding children’s insights. Consistent communication, respectful behaviour, keeping children out of the middle, stability and routine, inclusion in decision-making, open and honest discussions, flexibility and adaptability, healthy coping mechanisms, and quality time are all components of successful co-parenting. When co-parents prioritize these aspects, they create an environment where children can feel secure, loved, and supported despite the challenges of living in separate households. By embracing these insights, co-parents can build a strong foundation for their children’s emotional well-being and contribute to their overall development and happiness.

Written by Glenda Lux M.A., R. Psych.

Take me to the online course: Difficult Co-Parenting: Advice You Won’t Forget.