Without even realizing it, many parents are most comfortable when parenting solo. The addition of a partner, and having to incorporate another’s perspective into your own independent viewpoint, can make handling the kids conflicted and tense. Co-parenting is one of the biggest concerns intact parents have, without labeling it as such, when they come to see me in my practice. Frequently, parents come in for help regarding their children and spend much of the time discussing how they co-parent.
Tips to help intact couples to co-parent effectively:
Communication is key. Discussion of issues such as schooling, routines, extended family roles, behavior management, use of punishment, etc., should be held in an ongoing fashion. As a co-parent, listen to your partner’s opinions and discuss your similarities and differences and how you would like to resolve them. Compromise until you reach an agreement on these issues. Then, implement your joint decisions together and consistently. Try to always show a united front to your children.
Share roles. I have worked with several couples who had decided upfront that one of them would handle all the discipline. I have not seen that work. Both parents need to have an authoritative presence in order to gain respect and feel in control of the children.
Work together. Even when you don’t agree in the moment, support each other whenever possible and discuss disagreements later. Or, if you can’t wait, move away from the children to resolve differences and return to the action once you are united. Joint resolution of difficult issues will have a positive impact on your child, and it can strengthen the relationship with your co-parent.
Always re-evaluate. Effective co-parenting requires ongoing communication about what is working and what is not. As children grow and mature, parenting changes, and an ongoing discussion of how to manage these changes is required. Remember, compromise is important.