When we talk about co-parenting its often thought of as two divorced or separated parents working together to parent their children. You hear it in the courtroom when the judge rules on child custody matters; you hear it in the counseling room, at the children’s school during parent teacher conferences. And it is almost always said from some professional to two divorced parents. BUT, what if we expanded that. All too often parents that live in the home together aren’t even on the same page with parenting issues. Or what about parents that are married but one parent travels for work and is rarely home. These couples need to learn the art of co-parenting also, yet no one will ever even mention the idea to them because they aren’t divorced. I think applying the concept of co-parenting teams to still married couples is helpful, especial in the military communities when one parent is in and out of the house so often that the non-service member partner feels the brunt of parenting responsibility and the service member feels guilty for their lack of presence in their children’s lives whether because of deployment, TDY, field time, whatever. The home front parent feels like the disciplinarian, fun sucker etc. And the more absent parent spoils the children with gifts, rarely punishes, and is the more lax parent (of course this is not always the case, but the general pattern). This creates two different set of operations for the children to follow, and creates chaos in the house as the children try to figure out which set of rules they need to operate under at any given minute. Parents should be a co-parenting team, discussing how they plan to raise their children, and the expectations they have for one another as a parenting team and for their children before having a family. Having these types of discussions early and often can eliminate stress and anger down the road. So what does it mean to be a co-parenting team? Here are some basic guidelines on what it means to be a co-parenting team, regardless of whether or not you are still married.
Consistency is king! Regardless of anything else consistency will win out; the moment you give in, you have taught your children that if they whine and complain hard enough, you will give them what they want. If you say “no” and your spouse says “yes”, they will play ya’ll against each other. Stay consistent personally and as a team. You and your spouse are a team you can’t be in charge of the kids if you are squabbling amongst yourselves.
Don’t let one parent always be the disciplinarian. I know this isn’t always possible when one parent is gone a lot, but when they are present make sure the workload is fully shared, this means disciplining as well. The kids will see a united front if the responsibility is split. This also applies to showing affection towards your children, both parents should be responsible for showing physical, verbal, and emotional affection towards their children. You’d hate to be labeled as the cold one while your children constantly turn to your spouse for affection.
Do not EVER tolerate it when your children play you against one another. I remember I did that once as a child, and let me tell you once was enough! They made it clear that they would not tolerate me playing them against each other. This can be done with whatever discipline procedure you and your spouse have agreed upon.
These three points are broad, but purposefully so. No family has the same experiences and circumstances. By having broad overview this can be shared and applied to just about any two parent family in any circumstance. Remember, no matter what you and your spouse are a team, and teams work better when they work together (I know that sounds cliché but, it’s entirely too true). By having a strong co-parenting team, you and your spouse will be able to eliminate tension and stress within your marital relationship, making your marriage even stronger!