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Coparenting Together

Coparenting Together

Coparenting Together

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 coparenting as “sharing the duties of parenting.” 

Often we 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 coparenting 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.

#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 coparenting 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 coparent. 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 coparent can be. 

Remember, you’ve got this, you are the parents!

Warmly,
Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT

Do you have some helpful coparenting tips to share? Tell us in the comments section below!

 

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT is a couples counselor, premarital counselor, therapist, and life coach who is passionate about helping individuals, families & couples create more fulfilling lives and relationships, and to function at an optimum level of health and happiness.

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Read More by Jessica Below!

5 Powerful Parenting Tips

5 Powerful Parenting Tips

5 Powerful Parenting Tips

Feel More In Control

About 5 months ago my wife and I welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world. We had nine long months to anticipate her arrival. We prepared the nursery, we wrote lists of names, we visited doctors, and we spent time alone together. She finally arrived. In the hospital we snuggled and smiled at her. We definitely didn’t get enough sleep or buy enough diapers. We brought her home days later and it finally hit us. We were parents. We were supposed to move forward with this tiny human in our lives and provide her the kind of life she deserved. We were her source of nutrition, nurturing, and love. What we quickly learned is that being a parent is very different than watching people parent. We felt feelings of fear, inadequacy, confusion, exhaustion and frustration, just to name a few. If you are a new parent, or maybe you’ve been parenting for sometime, and are feeling overwhelmed by all that you are attempting to accomplish, know that you are not alone. After only 5 months I do not claim to know everything, but I have learned at least 5 tips that I feel are powerful tools to help all parents feel happier and more in control.

Have A Weekly Date Night

After having a child it becomes so easy to make taking care of them your sole center of your universe. It becomes easy to put all of your energy into taking care of your child. This shift is natural and important. As you are nurturing, loving, protecting, and watching over your baby, it’s important that you do the same to your partnered relationship. Take time every week to have a date with your partner. I use the term date loosely. You do not have to dress fancy, you don’t have to spend a lot of money, you don’t even need to leave the house! What matters is that you and your partner are being intentional about planning an activity that the two of you can do together (without your child) that will help you maintain the connection that you have. Try to schedule at least one hour of planned time together doing something you both enjoy.

Take Care Of Yourself

Just as it can become easy to stop taking good care of your marriage after having a baby, it can also be easy to stop taking good care of yourself. Make sure that you have time to engage in your hobbies, do the things you love. If you stop taking care of yourself, you won’t have the energy or the stamina to take care of your baby. It may look different than it used to, but it needs to still be a part of your routine.

Work To Tag Team While Parenting

During an intense wrestling match a wrestler who is exhausted from the fight has the option to tag a teammate to replace him in the ring. If parenting with a partner, you have a built in teammate! This isn’t possible at all hours of the day, but when you are both home with your child make sure you are taking turns taking care of your baby. If your child is crying and you can tell that your partner is becoming frustrated or overwhelmed, swap them out. On the other hand, if you’re getting frustrated or overwhelmed, be willing to take 10 minutes for yourself to calm down before you re-engage. If you can tag team your parenting, chances are good that one of you will always be able to handle the difficult moments. My wife’s favorite phrase is “YOUR TURN!” that is when I know it’s my turn to step into the ring. Be willing to seek your partner’s help early. Don’t wait until you are fully knocked down. 

SIDE NOTE: It’s also important to find ways to parent together. Find opportunities for all family members to engage together. Moments where all family members can be present and interact together are so crucial. For example, my wife and I have put a focus on bath time. We sing, we splash, we play together as a family. I am in charge of scrubbing her arms and head, while my wife covers her legs, tummy and toes. We both help with and engage in the process and it’s one of our favorite times. Work within your family to find something as simple as bath time that you can be engaged in together.

Work Hard To Be Present

In our most recent pediatrician visit, our doctor told us that on average 4-month-old babies watch three hours of TV a day. Now they probably aren’t really watching the TV but the point is, my wife and I had to reevaluate what we did with our baby all day. Being present involves interacting, playing, responding to and teaching your baby. When your baby is awake and looking at you, those are your moments to respond. This can infinitely strengthen your bond. Phones, TVs, computers and screens can seriously hinder our ability to connect with our baby. It is too easy to slip away for hours into the virtual world and distract ourselves from reality. This, ultimately, is a choice to disconnect with your baby. Being present with your baby is an important way to find joy in parenting. I would also caution against slipping into the screen-world when you’re finally alone with your partner for the day. It’s incredibly important to be present with your partner as well as your baby.

Cherish The Good Moments

With a brand new baby we can often fall into the routine of nap, eat, diaper change, nap, eat, diaper change… etc. It’s easy to remember the tense moments (or maybe hours) of screaming and the lack of sleep. Those difficult moments can sometimes overshadow the joy that can be felt in parenting. As parents, even when times are good we may find ourselves worrying about the tense moments that may be right around the corner. We don’t let ourselves fully enjoy or cherish the moments that make it all worth it.

Recently I had the opportunity to go to an event with my family and some of our friends. It went late into the evening passing our daughter’s regular bedtime. She started getting fussy and none of our typical tricks to keep her happy were working. She was tired and cranky. I put her in our baby carrier and left the event to roam the halls. She quickly relaxed and fell asleep. As she slept on my chest, I was overcome by the love I have for her. I thought about her vulnerability and her complete trust in me to keep her safe and meet her needs. To feel her vulnerability, her trust, her sense of safety, and her reliance on me in that moment was incredibly powerful. I held her and pondered on the special relationship that exists between a parent and a child and felt so lucky and grateful to have such a relationship in my life. The longer I held her the more grateful I became for her and the deeper my love for her grew. After that experience I felt more patient with her, I felt more willing to engage with her in a positive way. The 4 A.M. wake up call didn’t feel as disheartening after our evening together. The difficult moments are still there, but they seemed less powerful after I spent time cherishing the good.

Above All Else…

I’m going to provide one bonus tip here, and it’s possibly the most important: give yourself grace. You’re going to make mistakes, you’re not going to be a perfect parent. You’ll miss your child’s cues, you’ll get frustrated, sometimes you’ll make things worse instead of better. Don’t expect yourself or your partner to be perfect! Be willing to ask for help, you won’t know it all, don’t be ashamed that you don’t know it all. Learn, grow, and love. Love yourself, love your partner, and love your baby.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by the transition into parenting, whether you had your first child a week ago or 10 years ago, and would like to talk more in depth about how to parent effectively or how to keep your partnered relationship strong I would love to spend more time with you to get to know your personal struggles better. I am confident that parenting should be a joyful experience and if you are lacking that joy please reach out for support to help you find ways to bring that joy into your life. 

All the best, 
Hunter Tolman, M.S., MFTC

 

Hunter Tolman, M.S., MFTC is a kind, friendly and relatable marriage counselor and therapist who is devoted to strengthening families, helping couples heal, and empowering individuals to grow. He practices emotionally focused couples therapy, and has a compassionate — yet practical — approach to fostering positive change.

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Jessica Small, Parenting, Relationship Advice, JessicaS

Coparenting Together

Parenting with a partner can be difficult. It's not unusual to have different ideas of how to raise your children, but working together and building strategies for success can help ease some of those uncomfortable conversations. Couples therapist and parenting coach Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT shares 5 Coparenting Strategies for a successful partnership on this week's The Love, Happiness and Success blog post!

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