CREATING A SUCCESSFUL PARTNERSHIP
The term coparenting implies that you and your spouse are parenting together, but the reality can often feel much different. The Oxford dictionary defines co parenting as “sharing the duties of parenting.”
As a marriage and family therapist, my clients often think of coparenting in reference to couples who are separated or divorced and are trying to actively parent children from two different households, but the truth is that the act of coparenting is just as present for couples living in the same home.
The experience of parenting with a partner can be difficult. You both love your children, you both want the best for your children and at times you may have different ideas of how to mold these tiny young people into productive members of society.
Let’s be honest, parenting in and of itself is hard. There’s no reason to make it harder by feeling like you’re battling your partner every step of the way.
Here are some tips to put the CORPORATION into coparenting:
#1 FIND THE SIMILARITIES FIRST
It tends to be in our nature to focus on the negative, especially when we are feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and angry. When I work with couples that are struggling to find effective co parenting strategies, we always start with finding where the partners are aligned. [Also see: Practical Tips For Nourishing Friendship With Your Partner for more practical tips on building your foundation together.]
So before you and your partner start to highlight all the things you disagree on, change the conversation. Ask each other these types of open-ended questions:
What values do you want to instill in our children?
What feels most important to you to teach our children?
What would make you feel like we have succeeded as parents?
Are there things your parents did that you want to repeat or avoid?
What do you enjoy about parenting?
What feels hardest for you?
These questions open the door to a dialogue where there can be connection, understanding, and alignment.
#2 GET ON THE SAME PAGE
Now that you’ve spent time changing the conversation, and you have some clarity around what you, as parents, are ultimately working to achieve with your kids, you can start to explore various parenting models that you both can agree on.
Operating from a parenting model can often give parents a sense of relief because it feels like a manual for a job that came with no training. When you and your partner are both focused on parenting from the same lens then you naturally begin to respond to situations with similar language, and in similar ways.
A few models you may want to check out are Love and Logic, The Whole-Brain Child, and Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids.
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#3 BACK EACH OTHER UP
Kids, even young kids, are far more perceptive than we give them credit for. As we all know children are in a constant quest to test the boundaries. It is our job as parents to set rules and limits to ensure emotional and physical safety.
When there are gaps and cracks in our coparenting union, make no mistake that our children will find them. Just think about how much power it gives a child to understand that they can come between mom and dad!
It is an unrealistic expectation that you and your partner will agree on everything and always make the same decisions and respond to your kids in the same way, but in front of your kids, make an agreement to back each other up (and then settle any difference in opinion behind closed doors).
[For more information on nourishing your relationship with your partner through this parenting phase see: How to Keep Your Relationship Strong After Having a Baby for relationship-care tips!]
# 4 RELINQUISH CONTROL AND EMPOWER YOUR PARTNER
Nothing feels more defeating than having your partner swoop in and redo your work. Part of co parenting is about recognizing that your partner is sometimes going to do it differently than you would and your way is not always the right way.
Sometimes your partner is going to put your child in an outfit that does not match or give your kid two sweets when you would have only given them one. Don’t jump in and change your kid’s clothes or scold your partner. Being able to have flexibility around the small things helps create space for conversation around the big things (see step one for figuring out what the “big” things are and step two about backing one another up).
Give your partner space to build their own relationship with your kids, and the opportunity to feel like an empowered part of the parenting team.
#5 HAVE FUN
Spending time together as a family doing things that are enjoyable and fun increases a sense of fondness and admiration for your co parent. When we feel positive about our partner we tend to have more tolerance for the moments that are hard. Find time to play, be silly, and admire how great your co parent can be.
Remember, you’ve got this, you are the parents!
Jessica S., MA, LMFT
Meet Jessica: an experienced couples counselor, premarital counselor, therapist, dating coach, parenting coach, and life coach who is passionate about helping individuals, families & couples create more fulfilling lives, relationships, and function at an optimum level of health and happiness at every stage of life and love.
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