3 Co-Parenting Styles: Which Are You?

In Co-Parenting 101 by Deesha Philyaw and Michael Thomas, they created a simple explanation of 3 different types of coparenting styles. These styles are not based on how you parent your children but more about how you interact, communicate, cope, and coexist as coparents. Philyaw and Thomas define 3 different types of co-parenting styles as Super Friends, Business Partners, Oil and Water (I'm sure you can figure out what this one means). 

Lotus Therapies| Co-parenting Styles|Cumming, GA|Lawrenceville, GA

Super Friends are "parents whose co-parenting relationship is characterized by low conflict, flexibility, easy communication, and congeniality."  

Super Friends Co-Parenting Style display:

  • open respect for each other
  • ongoing communication
  • low conflict
  • all interactions and demonstrations are motivated by the child's wellbeing

Although this is an ideal situation, parents must be aware of and maintain boundaries so that children won't confuse respect and kindness with the possibility of a reconciliation between their parents. With all the god intentions of having a super-friends parenting style it still does not address or shield children from being hurt by the divorce. It is best to always keep communication open for children to express ongoing feelings about the effects of the divorce.

Lotus Therapies| Co-parenting Styles|Cumming, GA|Lawrenceville, GA

The business partners style is "characterized by the more formal interaction, strict adherence to schedules and written plans, and a basic civility." This is a "stick to the plan" style. These types of parents will have interactions that only that pertain to the parenting plan or keep to agreed upon schedules and they try to remain emotionally detached as it pertains to the other party.

Business Partners Co-Parenting Style display:

  • clear boundaries
  • emotions remain strictly in check
  • children's lives are not intertwined
  • minimum communication

The Business Partners style is useful for parents trying to get a specific message to and from the other parent without mudding the waters. This style can backfire and create a way for the child to manipulate or take advantage of minimum communication. 

Lotus Therapies| Co-parenting Styles|Cumming, GA|Lawrenceville, GA

Oil and Water coparenting style is defined as "a near and total breakdown of communication, high conflict, mistrust, and competitiveness." Just picture an all out nuclear war or a ticking time bomb.

Oil and Water Parents are:

  • a constant obstruction
  • verbal/physical altercation
  • unable to compromise
  • holding onto pain/anger/hurt from the unsuccessful relationship

An oil and water parent can be very reactive and find it very difficult to interact with each other. This is the most toxic of the three types of coparenting styles. It creates an atmosphere of inadequacy, insecurity, and fear for the child.

Creating a Positive Experience

In order to create a positive coprarenting experience, you have to decide to heal from the past and put your child first. Always strive to exhibit the behavior that you want for your relatipship as a coparent. Just because your ex is an oil and water parent doesn't mean you can't be a super friends parent.

Focus on:

  • always being positive
  • creating and maintain an open dialogue with your child 
  • always exhibiting kindness and refrain from getting sucked into arguments
  • LOVE on your kid-ESPECIALLY if you have a particularly shitty ex 
  • Be sure to create a safe space for your child
  • NOT talking shit about your EX around your child
  • Maintaining self-care, Love on yourself and Get help if you need it

Co-parenting can be rewarding and a positive experience. Having adequate support is crucial to having a successful co-parenting relationship. There are co-parenting groups like the one I provide, Quiet the Wars Co-parenting Group that are available to support parents through the transition of co-parenting by offering therapeutic support and referrals to legal professionals.




Philyaw, D.,Thomas, M.D. (2013) Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive in Two Households after Divorce. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.