Every month, I want to share a bit of the "blue print" that I use with individuals, couples and families.
Research shows that one of the best predictors of a child’s overall health and well-being, is the relationship between that child’s parents. This is true regardless of whether parents are married, separated, divorced or have some other kind of relationship. I have worked with many children and teens who feel anxious, depressed, angry, traumatized or scared because their parents argue in front of them, tell them to keep secrets, unload emotional burdens onto them or make transitions from one house to the other just plain miserable.
I understand that marriages and romantic relationships can hold a lot of hurt, pain and strife. Your co-parent may have done, said or caused serious damage, or perhaps you made decisions that you regret. To me, it makes perfect sense why parents have such a hard time trusting one another, communicating with each other and making decisions together.
However, the stakes are high here; the ability to co-parent well is for the sake of your child.
“The best security blanket a child can have is parents who respect each other.” –Jane Blaustone
As I mentioned last week, there are two main parts to why we struggle to feel united with our co-parent: the “parent” side, and the “partner” side. Let’s finish up this series by taking a look at the “partner” side of the equation.
My guess is that when your co-parent makes a parenting decision that seems too harsh, or too lenient, or too [fill-in-the-blank], both “parent” and “partner” sides of you react. (The “parent” side probably feels some of that fear that we discussed in last week’s post.) The “partner” side might have one of these internal monologues:
- “Oh there he goes again! Why does he have to talk to the kids the same way he talks to me? I know how much that hurts!”
- “She’s letting the kids walk all over her again. Now I have to be the bad guy and do everything.”
- “He never follows through on what we decided about consequences. I guess I still can’t trust him for anything.”
- “When will she stop worrying so much about the kids? Great – one more thing for her to nag me about.”
In each of these examples (and many others I’ve heard in my office), there is genuine concern for kids and how they are being raised/disciplined. However, there is also a strong hint of some relationship dynamics that are inextricably linked to parenting dynamics.
As I did last week, I encourage you to reflect on the following questions regarding your “partner” side:
- When I see my co-parent respond to our child in a way I don’t like, what happens in me? (i.e. What are my first gut-reactions/thoughts/feelings?)
- What am I most fearful of in these situations regarding my co-parent? What am I most concerned about regarding our relationship?
- What does my behavior look like as I respond to my co-parent?
- How can I let my care and concern be known, rather than my fear?
We’ll dive deeper into this “partner” side in the next blog series. For now, my hope is that in learning to land on the same parenting page as your co-parent, you are able to:
- Know that the struggle is real for so many parents (about 99.99%)
- Honor your “parent” side instincts to love, protect and care for your child
- Acknowledge that your “partner” side has a voice during parenting struggles
- Consider how you want your “parent” and “partner” sides to come across to those closest to you
In this together,