Co-parenting is an arrangement made by two people raising a child together but living in separate homes. You must decide about your child’s education, medical care, and other essential things with someone you may not like or agree with. Setting clear co-parenting boundaries can help you avoid the conflict involved with raising a child with an ex. 


Treat Your Relationship like a Business

Using a business-like approach to co-parenting will reduce much of the emotional component of how to raise your child together. Business decisions are made objectively and not because of some dynamic element. You can apply this same idea to your co-parenting strategy. Some examples include:

  • Remaining diplomatic. Listen to the other parent and stay supportive of family relationships from both families.
  • Be trustworthy. Tell the other parent the truth, and follow through with your responsibilities.
  • Continuously improve. Talk about what is working and what isn’t. Make changes where necessary.


Create a Detailed Parenting Plan

Children do best with consistency and predictable patterns. A parenting plan can help you outline both of your expectations. First, schedule when your child will be with one parent or the other. Depending on your child’s age, they can be a part of the scheduling process. Make it clear who picks them up, drops them off, and where they will sleep that night. In addition, indicate when they need to be ready for extracurricular activities requiring additional planning. If you are typically the default parent, this is your opportunity to redistribute the workload so it is fairer for both of you.


Agree on Standard House Rules

When your child learns of your separation, they may feel significant anxiety around sharing their time between two households. One way to help with this transition is for you and your co-parent to implement the same rules in both houses. These rules can be anything the two of you think is essential, such as:

  • Bedtime is always the same at both places.
  • Homework must be finished before playtime.
  • Screen time is limited to a certain number of hours.
  • Curfew is at the same time.


Establish a Communication Channel

You and your co-parent must establish a communication channel. It is not acceptable to use your child as a messenger between you. Not only might your child not share the information in the way you expect, but also you are putting an additional burden on them to be your mediator. Therefore, you and your co-parent must decide the best method of communication. Furthermore, limit when you answer them outside of emergencies.


Allow Free Child-Parent Communication

One of the essential co-parenting boundaries is allowing your child to communicate with either parent at any time freely. Do not shame your child for wanting to speak to their other parent while with you. You do not want them to feel they must hold back part of themselves to accommodate your feelings about your ex. Instead, if they ask to speak to their other parent, encourage them to do so and casually leave the room if you must.


Keep Your Private Lives Private

Leaving a long-term relationship can feel like it absorbs all your energy, but at some point, you will want your own life. Therefore, you must refrain from sharing details of your personal life with your co-parent. Of course, your child might tell them anyways, but you mustn’t be the one to share this information. The goal is to have your private life, not to go out of your way to make them jealous. If your co-parent confronts you about something in your personal life, be factual and unemotional about it. Do not reprimand your child for sharing this information. You do not want them to feel like this conflict is their fault. 


Have Strict Boundaries with a Toxic, Narcissistic, or High-Conflict Ex

It is normal for both of you to feel defensiveness towards each other as you learn to co-parent. However, if you are co-parenting with a high-conflict ex-spouse, sometimes the best thing you can do is ignore them. Draw clear co-parenting boundaries of when you will and won’t engage with them. For example, insist they communicate with you only through email or text or record their calls. If they refuse to not pick fights with you in front of your child, do not meet them face to face. Set up a method to drop off your child safely so that the two of you don’t have to interact. If they constantly change your child’s routine or appointments to suit themselves, involve another trusted person, such as a grandparent, who can act as a backup when your co-parent drops the ball.


Seek Help

Sometimes, no amount of organization or being the bigger person can be needed to solve some issues. Instead, find a place that offers co-parenting counseling. Your counseling will help you with establishing co-parenting boundaries going forwards. Having another person mediate your communication can reduce conflict and set reasonable goals for your family. Should it become necessary, your counselor may also want to check in on your child’s mental health. Children can be masters at hiding their distress to spare their parents’ from further emotional pain.



Developing clear co-parenting boundaries will help you navigate raising your child with as little conflict as possible. Consider treating co-parenting like a business relationship with clear schedules and expectations. In addition, think about rules you agree on that will be standard at both homes. Furthermore, allow your child to communicate freely between the two of you, but refrain from using them as messengers to avoid talking to one another. Finally, avoid contact with a toxic or high conflict ex. If you can not reach a consensus, consider family counseling to help you work on your co-parenting strategy.