When a parent comes to me for help with their kids and tells me about their challenges, my first step is to ask questions about this family’s situation. The information they share with me usually sheds some light on circumstances that may be contributing toward, or causing at least some of the challenges this parent is currently experiencing.
Some of those circumstances include the current condition of the relationship of the parents of the children; fighting, arguing, separation, divorce, etc. These situations factor in because children are affected directly by the adult emotional chaos that may be happening in the home or around the kids. Here are some suggestions for parenting more as a team, regardless of any issues that have come between the adults.
Agree together on how various situations will be handled with the children, and implement them with conviction. You won’t have answers to all situations but you can begin discussing with each other how you will both handle common ones to start. When new situations arise unexpectedly, discuss them in private away from the kids and then announce them jointly.
If you’re just getting ready to start a family, it’s never too early to discuss parenting issues. Make time to discuss your values and beliefs in parenting and children rearing with your significant other, and share your experiences on how you were parented as a child. Take a parenting class to learn together and seek recommendations on good parenting books from family and friends.
Always speak respectfully of other caregivers who share with you, the responsibility for caring for your children. This includes your spouse, the other parent, grandparents and other relatives. Doing so models integrity for the kids to learn from. Even though the other caregiver may have done something to hurt you or others, as long as they are sharing in the caregiving, your child(ren) may still see them as a hero and an adult to look up to.
It’s not always possible to hide arguments from the kids and some experts suggest that you don’t. It’s definitely OK for your kids to know that you both don’t always agree, but refrain from mistreating the other adult verbally or physically. It’s important to know that your children will learn how to develop their own relationships with others, based on the model you present. If the argument begins to escalate, take it to another room for privacy. It’s also important that your children see the “makeup” after the argument subsides.
And what if you’re a single parent? Create a support network made up of adults you trust with your children who can help give you the breaks you need to “recharge your batteries.” For single moms, engage trustworthy male relatives to spend time with your son(s) and for single dads, engage female relatives you trust to spend time with your daughters. And it’s great when your boyfriend and/or girlfriend bonds with your children, but they should not administer discipline. That’s reserved for you, the parent.