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Co-Parenting: Two Different Households, One Parenting Approach

​​​This information is included in our Guide to Parenting for Today's Family. Click here to see the rest of the guide.

When kids are being brought up by divorced parents, they often spend time in two different households. When each household has its own set of rules for the kids, it can lead to problems for the parents and confusion for the children.

The following tips can be helpful for divorced parents as they develop a consistent parenting approach for their kids:

  • Talk to your ex and make sure you both are on the same page regarding basic rules and how they are enforced (e.g., same bedtimes, chore responsibilities, amount of TV and video game time allowed, etc.).
  • If your child wants to do something that requires a decision from both you and your ex (staying overnight at the home of friend neither parent knows very well), make sure he or she understands that Mom and Dad have to talk about it and come to a decision together.
  • Don’t let your child manipulate or play you and your ex against each other. For example, if you’ve given your child a “No” answer to a request made while he or she is living with you, and the child calls your ex hoping to elicit a “Yes,” explain that it’s not okay to do that and that your response stands.

Along similar lines, many parents don’t know what to do when a child starts seeing one parent as the “good guy” and the other parent as the “bad guy.” Consider the following:

  • When the kids come back from staying with your ex, take a moment before they run off to help them get re-acclimated to your home. Remind them that they're no longer at the other parent’s house, and that what you say goes.
  • Explain to your kids that how they act and behave at one parent’s house will be different from how they act and behave at the other’s. Tell them that while both households may have similar expectations and rules (see the earlier tip about being on the same page), they should obey whichever parent they are staying with. 

In the end, the better you and your ex can communicate about and establish basic rules in both your homes, the easier it will be for you to parent and for your kids to do what you want. Most importantly, you must remember that regardless of what broke up your marriage, you both will always be united in your love of your children and that they always come first in your lives.

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