How to Co-Parent Effectively

photo_44279_20110601Co-parenting today is a lot different than it used to be. It’s harder, in part, because it comes without a clear template to follow. The days of nuclear families with clearly defined parental roles and blind deference from kids are long gone. Effective co-parenting requires better communication and more of it. Teens in particular also expect more authenticity and openness from us as parents.

We live in an age where teens not only have access to the same information that we do, but they’re communicating with each other and exchanging information with one another constantly. Some of this is great, but a lot of it is inaccurate and/or incomplete. When it comes to relationships, many teens are confused and disillusioned based on their experiences at home.

Effective co-parenting typically leads to children that develop into happy, healthy and successful young adults. On the other hand, kids with parents that aren’t on the same page are more likely to end up with lower self-esteem and other physical, emotional and behavioral issues.

Below are 7 tips to help you co-parent more effectively.

1. Take turns being good and bad cops. It’s likely that one of you is more comfortable with confrontation than the other. Over time, patterns get established and one parent ends up becoming the yeller/disciplinarian/irrational one while the other parent gets to be calm, logical, and empathetic. When these roles aren’t balanced, kids often end up with a strained relationship with the parent that they’re always in conflict with. It also becomes exhausting and lonely for the parent always having to get into it with the child.

2. Value your differences. There’s a good chance that you and your co-parent have different styles and sensibilities when it comes to parenting. At times, you probably clash.  A common way that frustrated parents will describe each other is, “she’s too emotional and enables her” and “he’s too hard on her and isn’t supportive enough.” The differences the two of you have are important for your child who benefits from what each of you have to offer. Children and teens need both emotion and problem solving, creativity and logic, humor and responsibility, physical activity and down time.

3. Have regular check-ins. Most families today are so busy that everyday is like gameday.The problem with that is there isn’t time for the coaches (you)  to review game film, consult with one another about what’s working and what’s not, and reflect on the game itself. Unfortunately it often takes a major crisis or scare, which kids have a knack for manufacturing, before this happens. Get ahead of the curve and start checking in with each other daily.

4. Disagree and resolve openly. Where will your teen learn to resolve conflicts and disagreements if not from you. From politics to pop culture, teens are constantly exposed to adults unable or unwilling to compromise and manage conflict respectfully. Disagreeing in front of your teen is the best gift you can give provided that you’re also able to resolve that issue with respect and compromise.

5. Find common ground. If you’re both having a really hard time getting on the same page, try to focus on the common ground that you share. You both want your child to get a good education so she can have choices and be happy as an adult. You both want your child to have good friends and be safe. You both want to have a good relationship with him. You both want her to be a responsible and productive adult.

6. Show PDA.  That’s right, your kids will benefit from seeing you kissing, holding hands, cuddling and hugging. When they see this from you, they learn that physical intimacy isn’t just about intercourse. Observing this from you will also ultimately help them be a better boyfriend or girlfriend in the future. Beware, they may scoff initially and you may experience a laudable eww! But they’ll come around. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself getting more hugs and physical affection from your teen overtime.

7. Prioritize your relationship. So many teens tell us how disillusioned they are with marriage and relationships. They talk about how they see their parents so obviously unhappy. They think, “if that’s as good as it gets, why would I want that”? If you’ve been using the busyness of your lives and parenting as an excuse to ignore issues within your relationship then now’s the time to make that change. Your teen is very smart and intuitive. If he’s not getting the example he needs at home then he’s looking for it on-line, through friends and other forms of media. That’s a pretty big gamble.

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