Co-parenting refers to how parents work together in raising their children. It involves being on the same page with your partner in the following areas:
- Parenting vision (your long term, positive goal in raising your children)
- Positive values that define your parenting, e.g., honesty, gratitude, accountability, etc…
- Rules and behavior expectations for your family
- Your day to day routine and structure, e.g., morning and evening routine, homework, bed time routine, etc..
- Boundaries, limits, and consequences, e.g., limits on technology use, boundaries with peers, appropriate dress, etc …
- Discipline – grounding your children for inappropriate and disrespectful behavior
For many parents, co-parenting is easier said than done. It takes deliberate and consistent effort to stay united as parents.
Such deliberate effort involves taking the time to communicate with your partner about things like rules, behavior expectations, daily routines, and discipline. Keep in mind that effective communication involves listening as much as talking.
Here are some practical tips to strengthen your co-parenting:
- Set aside some time every week or as needed to communicate with your partner about your parenting efforts
- Identify specific ways you can support the other
- If you partner needs to vent or complain, be an active listener and try to see it from their perspective (seeing it from your partner’s perspective does not mean that you are in agreement, rather you are trying to emotionally understand their view)
- When you disagree with your partner, address this conflict AWAY from your kids
- Before disciplining your child, review the discipline with your partner to ensure you are both are on the same page and you have a clear plan.
- Back each other up AND encourage being consistent with your day to day routine and structure
- If any rules are changed or modified, discuss with your partner BEFORE such changes are made.
Unity and Security
Children need to feel secure and safe in order to learn, grow and thrive. Remaining on the same page as co-parents helps cultivate a safe environment in your home. When children feel secure, they are more likely to trust your vision and follow your direction and guidance. They are more likely to go out of their comfort zone, take appropriate risks, and engage life.
When it comes to boundaries, limits, and consequences, a united front is a must. It is common for children to experience limits and consequences as a form of rejection and try to avoid them. By remaining united, you align boundaries and discipline with your positive parenting purpose. This makes limit setting and consequences more effective with far less drama. On the other hand, if you are not united, your kids can play you against each other. This weakens the effectiveness of limit setting and can create unnecessary drama and overreactions.
At some point, all parents encounter conflict in their efforts at co-parenting. Disagreements and different viewpoints are bound to happen. Try not to be emotionally ambushed when conflict occurs. Rather, consider approaching the conflict as an opportunity to problem solve your efforts toward helping your children grow up. Often times, your different viewpoints can offer valuable perspectives as you attempt to address parenting challenges.
Perspective taking is one way to manage difference and conflict as a parent. For instance, imagine walking in the shoes of your partner and seeing it from their viewpoint – whether you agree with it or not. The first step toward using conflict productively involves understanding the other’s perspective. Once you understand your partner’s perspective, you are more likely to be empathic as you navigate your differences. Perspective – taking is one way to approach conflict productively.
In the future, a series of blogs will focus on ways to experience and manage conflict productively. The topic of a United Front and Productive Conflict are addressed in detail in the book, Values Grounded Parenting: A Framework for Raising Healthy Children. The book will be available by May 1, 2020 on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.