Setting boundaries: How to set expectations when co-parenting

March 29, 2022

Navigating the minefield that is separation is a massive challenge. Throw co-parenting into the mix and it’s safe to say, your frustration and overwhelm is probably rivalling that of a small volcanic eruption. 

And understandably, too. 

You’re not just raising your child (or children) anymore — you’re having to manage another adult, and one who you may no longer trust or like.  

That’s not to say co-parenting is impossible — it can be possible and it can be stress-free. But, it takes work. 

If you’re finding co-parenting challenging (or are feeling daunted by the prospect of having to communicate with your Ex), then it might be time to set some clear boundaries. Here’s how I recommend going about it.

Redefine the relationship

Change your mindset around co-parenting, and your Ex. 

Co-parenting doesn’t mean you’re best friends with your Ex, or need to be conflict avoidant, but it does mean you have to accept and acknowledge that your Ex is important and valuable to your child. 

You and your Ex are your children’s parents, you are the two most special people in the world to them.  

Whether they were a shitty partner to you, or not, is actually not relevant to who they are as a parent? This is a big, hard factor to grapple with. It will take time.

But finding your way to separating who you and your Ex were to each other in your relationship, from who and how they are to your children, is the most important leap you can make as you redefine your parenting relationship with your Ex.

Treat your co-parent like a business colleague 

Be polite. Be courteous. Be respectful. 

You and your Ex are now in the business of parenting your children together. 

The most important part of maintaining the focus of this relationship on your children and their needs and wellbeing is to create boundaries around your emotions and personal life. 

You can only control you.  You can control how you communicate, how you engage, how you react and how you show up. 

Take some time to reflect on the dynamics of how you and your Ex communicated in your relationship, how you solved problems together and how you managed difficult conversations. 

As you think on how its been, you can uncover what boundaries you need to put in place around how you communicate and engage with your Ex. 

Come up with a set of rules and a framework you will follow to keep your emotions to the side and you keep the interactions and communication focused on what needs to be done, or what decision needs to be made for your children. 

This sets expectations in terms of the communication and lets them know where your boundaries are, without having to explicitly spell them out. 

If you’re in a high conflict co-parenting situation, it might be time to try the grey rock method and keep it simple, straight-forward and to the point. If details about your life are causing friction, then simply don’t offer the information, or the emotional reaction (which is how your Ex maintains control over you).

Have a parenting framework in place

We recommend every separated couple have a clear parenting framework — even if you and your ex get along well and rarely clash. A clear framework around who your children are living with, how they spend special occasions and what’s happening during the holidays is vital.  This is something you can both look to for guidance to ensure you’re both on the same page.

You can record the parenting arrangements in a Parenting Plan, or a Parenting Consent Order.  A Parenting Plan is not binding, but offers a lot of flexibility, whereas the Parenting Consent Orders is binding and enforceable. 

You can speak with our team to help you create a clear parenting framework that gives both parents and your children clarity on the arrangements for your children, and removes the needs for constant communication and negotiation about what’s happening for each special occasion, or holiday.  This can be the primary source of conflict after separation, if you don’t have a clear plan in place.

Communicating with your Ex 

We also recommend co-parents get clear on how they are going to communicate with each other and incorporate this framework into their Parenting Plan, or Parenting Consent Order. 

Be clear on what you will communicate about, what will be your method of communication on non-urgent issues, how you will communicate in an emergency situation, and what will be the timeframe for a response. 

Be flexible. You both have lives. And a little understanding (both ways) shows you have respect for each other; something your children will be grateful for.

Don’t talk negatively your co-parent

Speaking of respect, resist the temptation to denigrate your co-parent, especially in front of your kids. 

Understandably, when your co-parent isn’t fulfilling their duties or is falling short when it comes to your kids, it can be incredibly frustrating. Your first instinct is to jump in and fix it. 

Now that the trust between you and your Ex has changed, how you communicate needs to be less intimate and more business-like and focused, without blaming or emotional language.  

Remember, you control you and how they uphold their side of your shared parenting plan falls squarely on them — even if it’s disheartening to see.

Plan holidays/events well in advance 

This goes for Christmas, birthdays and every event in between. Make firm plans and make sure to lock them in, well in advance. 

This decreases the risk of someone forgetting, getting confused or irritated by the late notice. Create a shared calendar and live by your calendar — and request your co-parent do the same.

When you’re ready here a few things we can help you with…

You can book in a FREE 30 minute Clarity Call to discuss your situation and get answers to the issues causing you the most stress right now.

You can download our How to Survive the First 90 Days After Separation Guide which is jam-packed with easy, actionable steps you can take in the early days of your separation as you start to uncover and plan how you want to move forward.

You can connect with us on Instagram and Facebook where we share heaps of tips, tools and strategies to support you on your separation journey.


This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or any other professional advice.

Feeling unsure where to start?

Let us guide you through what’s involved in untangling your relationship and give you the tools to set yourself up to move forward.

Feeling unsure where to start?

Let us guide you through what’s involved in untangling your relationship and give you the tools to set yourself up to move forward.

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