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What is a co-parenting agenda?

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This page introduces the idea of a co-parenting agenda.

Participants in both co-parenting and Parenting Coordination services will be asked to provide an agenda via email, copy to all participants, at least 24 hours in advance of the scheduled service.

Be certain to include your name, the family name (if different from your name) and the date of the upcoming meeting on your agenda.

Your agenda should not include full sentences, proper grammar or emotions. The goal is to create a brief, bulleted list of child-centered items that should be resolved. State the item, not your opinion. For example, "extra-curricular activities" rather than "I think he should play soccer.

List agenda items in priority order. Health and safety issues always come first.

Please create a new agenda for each meeting. Do not rely on the agenda from the last meeting as it is not likely to reflect your current concerns and priorities.

Come to the meeting with any relevant data (e.g., dates, times, places, costs, websites or print materials to learn more).

In overview:

1. Be business-like. Co-parenting and parenting coordination are not psychotherapy. Both are child-centered, agenda-driven interventions. They are both conducted like a business meeting, where the business is the child's well-being. Topics are determined by the agendas that participants provide in advance on each meeting.

2. Be proactive. A co-parenting agenda is a short list of child-centered, forward-looking topics that might be covered in a co-parenting or parenting coordination meeting.

3. Be timely. Dr. Garber will typically ask that all participants in a scheduled meeting deliver an agenda to all (including Dr. Garber) via email at least 24 hours in advance of meeting.

4. Be concise. Agendas should include 3 or 4  simple, clear factual statements. For example, "summer camp" or "asthma inhaler" or "next orthodontist appt." Your purpose is simply to identify the topic. No commentary is necessary. Do not list everything you believe needs attention.

5. Be polite. Write your agenda the way that you might write to a trusted colleague or boss. "Please" and "thank you" can help. Asking rather than telling or demanding often works better.

6. Your emotion belongs elsewhere. Agenda items must NOT be emotional. Avoid blame, shame and guilt. This usually means NOT including phrases like "why did you...?" and "I can't believe that ...!" and any words that might be read as hurtful, demeaning or abusive. Some participants find that waiting five minutes after writing and before sending or asking a trusted adult to preview your agenda can help minimize inflammatory language.

7. Pick your battles. The goal is not to win or be dominant or take control. The goal is to raise a healthy child. Before you write your agenda, ask yourself which battles are worth fighting and which are better ignored.

8. Respect boundaries/Do not micromanage. You are in charge when your child is in your care. Your co-parent is in charge when your child is in his/her/their care. You can make suggestions and requests, but you have no authority to change anything that goes on in your child's other home.

9. Prioritize. Agenda items should be listed in priority order from most important to least. Higher priority items will include matters of health and safety and time-urgent matters. Higher priority items are more likely to be addressed in the next meeting, while lower priority items may be delayed and carried over to subsequent meetings.

10. Protect your kids. Children should not be aware of these agendas or the process of the meetings unless specifically decided in meeting.

11. Follow-though. Make a special effort to comply with any decisions or agreements made in co-parenting or parenting coordination. Put "checking in on [agreement]" in subsequent agendas to make sure that we're all following through.

In the end, the key to writing a successful agenda and to participating in a successful co-parenting or parent coordination service will be your determination that you love your kids more than you dislike your co-parent.

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