Modern co-parenting can be tough. With a less stable economy, more families see both parents working outside the home. With rigid gender roles eroding, mothers and fathers sometimes struggle to determine which roles are appropriate. With modern technology giving youth unprecedented access to life beyond home and school, parents can struggle to strike a workable balance between overindulgent parenting and isolating strictness.
Child-rearing as co-parenting equals can be extremely rewarding, helping to produce adults who are mature, responsible, sociable, and flexible, but takes conscious effort. Striving for equitable levels of responsibility in raising a child takes communication, organization, respect, and support. The mother and father must be willing to adopt some nontraditional roles and come to consensus on complex issues.
First, co-parenting couples need to form a united front when dealing with major child-rearing issues, especially discipline and education. Many kids will attempt to play parents off against each other, first seeking permission for something from one spouse and then the other. If a son or daughter realizes that Mom and Dad have different ideas on what is permissible, problems ensue. Failing to present a united front early on can affect the marital relationship, with one spouse feeling unsupported and disrespected when the other spouse continually goes against his or her ideas. Though youth may like the possibility of being able to “play” a more permissible parent, they may quickly come to feel stressed by facing the anger of the less permissible parent later. Over time, the children may feel insecure, not knowing if they will be punished by the less permissible parent for many things allowed by the more permissible parent.
For both the sake of the marriage and the sake of your progeny, create the strength of a unified front. Though they will not be able to get away with as much, they will secretly appreciate always knowing where the boundaries are.
Secondly, co-parenting couples need to develop acceptable and expected ways for handling conflict. If there is a disagreement, how should it be discussed? It is important for couples to know which levels of communication are expected, and when. Though there may be initial awkwardness, both partners must become comfortable with being proactive about approaching the other and airing disagreements in a straightforward, respectful manner. You could say “I support you, but I would prefer if next time you handle that situation…” Of course, make sure to not air disagreements in front of your offspring, which may make them question your united front or worry that your relationship is insecure.
Third, a healthy co-parenting relationship involves good scheduling and organization. Parents must make an effort to ensure that there is an equitable distribution of parenting tasks, ranging from handling extracurricular activities to cooking family meals to managing household chores. Neither parent should feel that all responsibilities are falling on him or her, which can lead to resentment, bitterness, and threaten the marital relationship. To help minimize drudgery and allow the children to see working examples of gender equality, good co-parenting should involve switching up job responsibilities on a regular basis.
Fourth, good money management is a must for successful co-parenting. Budgeting and spending are part of the united front co-parents must present, but money skills go beyond simply having similar expectations. Co-parents need to exhibit good money management skills for their children, including explaining how the family budget works and showing youth how to shop without overspending. As with discipline and homework expectations, consistency is key: Both parents must follow a budget that is understood, at least in general, by the children.