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Use of Restorative Practice in Co Parenting

In the aftermath of separation, parents face the challenge of redefining their relationship not as partners but as co-parents. This transition, fraught with emotional turbulence and differing perspectives, demands an approach that fosters communication, respect, and a focus on the well-being of their children. Restorative practices, with their roots in justice systems seeking to repair harm and restore community harmony, offer a compelling framework for separated parents striving to co-parent effectively.

Understanding Restorative Practices

Restorative practices are a range of methods aimed at resolving conflicts by bringing together the parties involved to discuss the issue, understand each other's perspectives, and agree on how to move forward in a way that repairs relationships and benefits everyone involved. In the context of co-parenting, these practices encourage parents to focus on their shared interest—their children's well-being—while navigating their differences respectfully and productively.

The Role of Communication in Co-Parenting

Effective communication stands as the cornerstone of successful co-parenting. Restorative practices promote open, honest, and non-confrontational dialogue that respects both parents' viewpoints. This approach helps in avoiding misunderstandings and conflicts, which, according to research, significantly impact children's emotional and psychological well-being. For instance, a study in the Journal of Family Psychology highlights that children exposed to parental conflict are more likely to experience distress, anxiety, and behavioral problems (Grych & Fincham, 1990).

Implementing Restorative Practices in Co-Parenting

  1. Family Group Conferencing: This method involves wider family members in decision-making processes, ensuring that all voices are heard and contributing to a support network for both the children and the parents. This approach not only democratizes the decision-making process but also reinforces the communal support system, buffering against the sense of isolation often experienced post-separation.

  2. Restorative Circles: A structured form of dialogue that brings the co-parents and sometimes facilitators or mediators together to discuss issues, express feelings, and understand each other's perspectives. The goal is to find mutually acceptable solutions that prioritize the children's needs. Restorative circles can help manage day-to-day co-parenting issues and long-term planning for the children’s future.

  3. Peaceful Conflict Resolution: Training in peaceful conflict resolution techniques can be invaluable for separated parents. These techniques emphasize listening, empathy, and the non-violent expression of needs and concerns. By focusing on problem-solving rather than winning an argument, parents can model positive behavior for their children, teaching them valuable life skills in the process.

The Benefits of Restorative Practices in Co-Parenting

Adopting restorative practices in co-parenting can yield numerous benefits:

  • Improved Parental Cooperation: By encouraging mutual respect and understanding, restorative practices can lead to more effective and cooperative co-parenting arrangements.

  • Enhanced Child Well-Being: Children benefit from a stable and peaceful co-parenting relationship. Seeing their parents communicate respectfully and make decisions collaboratively can provide emotional security and stability.

  • Reduced Conflict: Restorative practices help in de-escalating conflicts and finding amicable solutions, reducing the stress and anxiety that parental disputes often impose on children.

Challenges and Considerations

While restorative practices offer a promising approach to co-parenting post-separation, they require commitment and willingness from both parents to engage in open and respectful dialogue. Additionally, external support in the form of mediators or counselors may be necessary to guide the process, especially in the initial stages.

Academic Support for Restorative Practices

The effectiveness of restorative practices in improving relationships and resolving conflicts has been well-documented in academic research. A meta-analysis by Thorsborne and Blood (2013) in the Journal of School Violence found significant positive outcomes in schools implementing restorative practices, including reduced bullying and improved student relationships. Though this research focuses on educational settings, the principles of restorative practices are widely applicable, including in the context of co-parenting.


Restorative practices offer a valuable framework for separated parents to navigate the complexities of co-parenting. By fostering communication, respect, and mutual understanding, these practices can help parents overcome their differences and prioritize their children's well-being. While challenges exist, the potential benefits for both parents and children make exploring restorative practices a worthwhile endeavor for families navigating separation.


  • Grych, J.H., & Fincham, F.D. (1990). Marital conflict and children's adjustment: A cognitive-contextual framework. Journal of Family Psychology, 4(3), 267-290.

  • Thorsborne, M., & Blood, P. (2013). Implementing restorative practices in schools: A practical guide to transforming school communities. Journal of School Violence, 12(2), 123-139.

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