Cultivating Mental Wellness While Co-parenting

December 23, 2020 by Indiana Lee


Everyone tells you your life will change when you have a child, but until you actually become a parent yourself, you can never truly understand what that means. It’s almost as if your life becomes separated into two halves: Before Baby and After Baby.

Once you’ve tasted the sweetness of this perfect, precious, perplexing and sometimes maddening little being that you helped to create turning to you and calling you Mama or Daddy, you can never go back. You will never be the same.

And because this little creature has given you a new world, a new life, you would do pretty much anything you can to make theirs as idyllic as possible.

But life itself is far from idyllic, and, no matter how hard you try, there are just some things parents can’t protect their children from. If you and your spouse are going through a divorce or separation, there’s no getting around the fact that your child will be affected. Just as her parents do, your child will hurt, will grieve. They may feel anger or fear. They almost inevitably will need time to adjust.

Whether the separation is a new thing or has been the status quo in your family for a while, there are steps you and your former partner must take to protect your child’s mental health while you co-parent.

The Necessity of Equal Parenting

Even in the most amicable of separations, breakups are difficult for everyone in the family. Children, especially, are creatures of habit. A significant change in the home, even from the standpoint of disrupting the child’s ordinary daily routine, can be traumatic for children. Kids simply don’t have the life experience, the coping skills, or the mature understanding to enable them to adjust to such a profound life change without significant support.

This is why effective co-parenting is so crucial. Children need the reassurance and stability that only cooperative, unified, and amicable parenting can provide.

The good news is that the equal parenting standard isn’t just great in theory. The evidence is mounting that equal parenting is essential for kids, and the courts are paying attention. In states such as Nebraska, custody cases are on the decline because now the assumption, among families and family courts alike, is that mom and dad will share equal time as much as possible.

Effective co-parenting isn’t just good for kids, though. It’s also great for parents, especially fathers, who traditionally have received short shrift in courts, even among the most gifted jurists in the highest court in the land. When fathers are disadvantaged in dysfunctional co-parenting relationships, their mental health declines significantly — and the kids feel it. In fact, a mounting body of research shows that children do far better, psychologically, socially, academically, and even financially, when their fathers are mentally healthy and equally involved in the co-parenting process.

Know the Risks and the Signs

Though building a strong, communicative, and supportive co-parenting relationship with your former partner is an essential first step, it’s far from the only one. Even in the best shared parenting situation, children can still struggle. After all, change is hard and growing up, in general, can be even harder.

Co-parenting effectively means communicating with your partner so that together you can keep your thumbs on the pulse of your baby’s wellbeing. This must include sharing any situation in the home that might affect your child, such as financial, family, or school issues.

Children are extraordinarily perceptive, after all, and they have the uncanny ability to pick up on things you may be trying to shield them from. But kids also have other superpowers, including the ability to catastrophize the unknown and to blame themselves for problems that are not even remotely their fault.

In other words, children are experts at taking the weight of the world on their shoulders. And because of that, financial issues, problems at school, or stressors within the family can easily spiral into full-fledged mental health disorders in your child if you don’t recognize the signs and intervene early.

So, it’s imperative that you maintain close contact with your parenting partner to routinely exchange notes about your child’s behavior and any subtle signs of mental health distress. If and when those should arise, ensure you address them together, showing your child that when they need help, the whole cavalry is coming.

Our children are the greatest gift we will ever know. They are the best of us, and they deserve the best in return. This means we must practice effective co-parenting whenever and wherever possible.

Strong shared parenting, means working in unison to support children’s mental wellbeing. It takes time, understanding, effort, and cooperation, but seeing your child grow into a healthy, happy, productive, and fulfilled human being makes it so much more than worthwhile.

Indiana Lee lives in the Northwest and has a passion for the environment and healthy lifestyles. She draws her inspiration from nature and makes sure to explore the outdoors regularly with her two dogs. Indiana enjoys mountain bicycling and hiking on her off time and has experience in owning and operating her own business. Feel free to contact her at or follow her on twitter @indianalee3

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