The World of Co-Parenting

In a recent conversation with someone, a single parent, she talked about the importance of having yin & yang regarding interactions and discipline.  While all parenting should have that type of balance, it is especially important to have that when you are co-parenting.  Co-parenting is the experience of raising children as a single parent when separation or divorce occurs.  Successful co-parenting requires reciprocal interactions of each parent and relies on healthy, open communication, empathy, and patience; this can be especially difficult for people who experienced marital issues (resulting in a separation or divorce), but it’s imperative for your children.

While this process is certainly easier said than done, check out the Do’s & Don’ts of co-parenting.

Do’s:

  • Prepare for change. This is going to be a huge transition!  Nothing is more certain in life than change.  You need to willingly accept that most aspects of your life will radically change.
  • Rules should be consistent and agreed upon at both households. Co-parent as a team and aim for co-parenting consistency! Having similar schedules, rules, and discipline between both parents will make transitions easy for all people involved and will reduce confusion for the children.  Things won’t ever be EXACTLY the same and that’s okay.
  • Recognize that co-parenting will challenge you. You may need to make accommodations in your parenting style based on the needs of your children.  Don’t let frustrations from being challenged impact your relationship with your kids.
  • Embrace the fact that you don’t have to ALWAYS be doing something.Parents often feel the urge to be “the cool parent” or “the fun one”.  That’s not needed.  Spend quality time with your children and adjust to the new normal.
  • Update often. For co-parents who had tumultuous relationships, it may be emotionally painful to be in constant contact with your former partner about all changes in your life, but it is important to be in-the-know about these things.  Share information about grades, sleep-overs, camps, etc.  Your child should never be the primary source of information.
  • Acknowledge each other’s strengths. Each co-parent has valuable strengths as a parent.  Remember to recognize each other’s traits and reinforce this awareness with your children.  Speaking positively about one another teachers your children that despite your differences, you can still acknowledge and appreciate each other’s strengths.
  • Practice empathy. This is a huge change for everyone.  Try putting yourself in your former partner’s shoes and treat them the way you would like to be treated.  It seems like an elementary thing to say, but it’s easily forgotten.  Have empathy for your children, too.  Allow them to voice their feelings and validate their experience.  
  • Enjoy your time off. When it’s not your time to be with the kids, do something that is for YOUR benefit and yours alone!  Some may call this selfish, but I call it self-care.  Everyone needs to recharge their batteries.

Don’ts

  • Don’t burden your child. Children should not be exposed to emotionally charged issues surrounding your former partner.  Putting children in the middle of intense conflict and issues regarding your relationship can promote feelings of helplessness and insecurity.
  • Don’t put your child in the middle. This means don’t use kids as messengers!  When children are used to convey messages between co-parents, it puts them in the center of conflict.  Similarly, don’t say negative things about your former partner to your children.  Your child has a right to have a relationship with both parents free of any bias.
  • Don’t be an unbalanced parent. It may seem like a good idea to be the cool parent, but doing so generally fuels resentment as your children will be more reluctant to follow set rules and routines.  Children develop best with a united front.
  • Don’t give into guilt.Parent’s often experience an abundance of emotions when a separation or divorce happens and they are no longer in their children’s lives on a full-time basis.  Many parents experience guilt–which they convert into overindulgence in an effort to “make it up” to their child.
  • Don’t accuse. Discuss. Communication about co-parenting is VITAL. Discuss issues that arise appropriately and assertively.  Don’t fall back on passive-aggressive tones or finger-pointing.

Co-parenting is not an easy task.  Being a parent and a partner is already difficult enough, but when you add heightened emotion that is often experienced as a result of being in a co-parenting relationship, it makes everything that much more difficult.  At the end of the day, it’s important to push your feelings about your former partner aside and focus on what is best for the kids.  Doing this will allow you to work with your co-parent as a teammate.  It’s not only doable, but is beneficial for the children involved.  Successful co-parenting is a win-win for all.

Benefits of co-parenting

  • When children feel security and consistency from both parents, they adjust more quickly and easily to divorce and new living situations.
  • Children are mentally and emotionally stronger. After all, if children are exposed to conflict between co-parents, they can have lower self esteem and develop depression or anxiety.
  • Children better understand problem solving. Kids learn how to manage life by watching their parents–set a good example for them.
  • When co-parenting becomes the new normal, children need to know that they aren’t abnormal and this is something that will work for them and their family members.

For additional parenting tips & tricks, check out Positive Discipline!

By: Julie Burke, LPC
See what she’s up to on Instagram!

Household Chores and Why They Matter for Children and Teens

What characteristics and life skills do you hope your children develop?  These are some that I often hear from parents in our workshops and parenting sessions:

  • Responsibility                        
  • Self-discipline
  • Empathy/Caring
  • Adaptability
  • Accountability
  • Respect for self and others
  • Creativity

Believe it or not, one way that you can begin (or continue) to help these characteristics develop in your children is by involving them in household chores. It is never too early or too late.  Kids need to know they are important, useful, contributing members of your family. Helping with chores builds the skills above and many more.

Many families I work with feel like kids have “too much on their plate” or say that “school is their job” and they don’t want them to be overwhelmed with responsibilities at home.  So instead, parents carry the heavy load of household chores on their own, missing an amazing opportunity to instill contribution.

Another barrier is that parents don’t realize that it is normal and expected for children and teens to lose interest in chores and get distracted by other things, such as friends, their phone, and school (much like we do).  Children are born with the desire to help and contribute (see video below), but they are not born with the skills needed to do so perfectly.  Parents have to teach, model, and reinforce household chore expectations again and again in order for them to stick.

Get started today involving your kids in household chores:

  1. Brainstorm a list of daily and weekly chores that happen in the home with the whole family.
  2. Choose a few important chores to rotate – one per family member- and make a list or chart to post the chores on.  Here is an example of the one we have at my house.
  • Take time for training – spend the first week doing the chores together so that you can teach skills such as spraying the dust spray, how much to feed the dog, how long to water the grass in the front yard, and so on.  Be collaborative and have fun with it! 
  • Decide upon frequency and what time it should be done based on the chore.  If your child (or partner 🙂 ) forgets, gently remind them with a kind smile and friendly body language, and a point at the chore chart to job their memory.
  • Resistance is NORMAL!  Don’t expect your kids to cheer and thank you when you remind them of their chore, but no matter how much they grumble, be KIND and FIRM – “I know you would rather play your guitar, AND it’s time to do your chore.” 
  • Use the Chore Chart below, a resource adapted from Positive Discipline, to determine the chores that are age-appropriate for your child. 

Check out this video that shows very young children (and chimps) demonstrating a desire to help!

By: Lora Ferguson, LPC-S, CPDT

Premarital Counseling: How to Prepare for a Marriage

Premarital counseling is a great start on preparing for a successful marriage. In today’s culture an engaged couple usually spends 8 months or more planning a wedding. I’ve often wondered that if an engaged couple could spend 8 months preparing for a marriage, what kind of difference it could make in the success of a marriage. With the right guidance and tools, a couple could increase their success of marriage by upwards of 30%. Taking the time to build understanding and to create tools with your partner is necessary to prepare for a marriage. Below are some resources to consider before you get married.

Finding the right premarital counselor

Finding the right fit of a premarital counselor is essential for any engaged couple. This could be the start of a relationship with a counselor for your marriage. Make sure they are the best fit for your relationship, not for one partner in particular. Make sure during premarital counseling that all the tough topics are talked through such as: Finances, Parenting, Division of Chores, Spirituality, and any trauma from previous relationships or family of origin. A premarital counselor can be found through your local church, therapist in town, or through workshops for couples.

Recommended Books for Engaged Couples

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman

Chapman’s book talked through how a person can feel loved through 5 different language. This book helps open a person’s mind in to how they can best love their partner.

Attached. By Amir Levine and Rachel Heller

Lavine’s and Heller’s’ book talks through the different attachment styles a person develops as they grow up and how it affects their romantic relationships. This book helps a person understand why they and their partner might respond certain ways to some situations.

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman PhD and Nan Silver

Gottman and Silver talk through seven different principles that their research over the past 20 years has revealed in making a marriage work. Talking through these seven principles with your partner will start lifelong conversation that will help you continue to work on your marriage.

Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson Ed.D.

Nelson talks through how the structure of discipline as grown and changed over the past 50 years. She talks through concepts of how to be kind and firm in parenting and redefines what being a successful parent looks like.

Written by: Julie Smith, LMFT-Associate
Under the Supervision of Kirby Schroeder, LPC-S, LMFT-S

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