We have spent June talking about parenting. Whether you are a single parent, co-parents with a partner you are no longer in a relationship with, or co-parenting in a joint relationship, there is always room to learn more. Parenting is something that is constantly fluid. It changes as time goes on, and you learn from things that work and things that don’t work.
We can spend a lot of time comparing ourselves to other parents, or even to our own parents. And that can be troublesome. Every family is unique, and what works for other parents might not be the best for you and your children. It is also important to know that you can be flexible on your parenting strategies. Meaning, they can change with trial and error, and with time.
We read a lot of articles on the American Psychological Association’s website, and we recently found a great article about 7 researched backed ways to improve parenting. Those 7 ways are:
- Embrace Praise
- Look the other way
- Learn about child development
- Do time-out right
- Prevent misbehavior
- Take care of yourself first
- Make time
Head on over to APA’s website, and this article written by Amy Novotney, to read about these 7 ways to improve parenting in more detail.
Becoming a parent doesn’t come with a one size fits all, or a step by step hand book with a bunch of “How To’s”. We learn to parent mostly from our own parents (or lack thereof), and from what we see in society. We may see parenting from siblings, friends, movies or books. But when it gets to the nitty gritty of parenting, it really comes down to learning as you go.
And every family is different. Some parents are more lenient with their kids. Some are more strict. Some have a very clear boundary of friend vs. parent, and some tend to lean more toward friend. How ever you choose to parent your children is up to you, but there can be some common mistakes to avoid.
According to Barbara Greenberg from Psychology Today, some of the common mistakes parents make are:
- 1.Under or overdoing it with your kids
- 2. Not getting to know your child
- 3. Believing that worrying about your kids will keep them from harm
- 4. Maintaining expectations that are too low or too high
- 5. Not being the best role model yourself
1. How involved should you be in your kids lives? Parents can either over do it when it comes to their kids space and individual lives, or they can under do it. Greenberg states that the deciding factor in how under involved or over involved you are in your kids lives, usually depends on how you were parented growing up. Were your parents strict? You might feel like you should do the opposite. Were your parents relaxed, and not around much? You might feel the need to insert yourself in every aspect of their day. It is very hard to find this balance, and as you go you will learn what works for you and your family. Remember that there are situations where it is okay to be strict, and there are those where it is okay to back off.
2. Greenberg warns about having assumptions about your child, and how dangerous that can be. If you are constantly assuming how your child feels, or why they are acting the way they do, then you will be doing yourself and your child a disservice. Many parents feel they know their children simply by observing them and comparing them to themselves or to their siblings. The way you really get to know your child, is to talk to them. Engage with them, ask them questions, ask them their opinions, talk to them about what they’re feeling. You might be surprised how forthcoming a child can be when they feel you want to participate in a conversation with them instead of at them.
3. Worrying is something that is second nature when you have children. You can worry yourself sick about your kids if you let yourself. Part of raising well developed and adjusted kids, is to let them learn and grow independently of you and your spouse. You cannot protect your child from everything in the world. You can equip them with the best knowledge, reactions, morals, ethics, manners etc, but when you worry about your children constantly it shows them you are anxious and not confident in their abilities to navigate the world. It also teaches them that you are afraid of everything, so they should be too.
4. When you compare your kids to each other, or to yourselves you’re setting them up for failure. When you label them in a certain way, it’s impossible for them to grow and learn. If your expectations for the family and for each children are too high, the kids will feel like they can’t do anything right. If the expectations are too low, they might loose motivation or drive to do or be more in life. The balance is hard to find, but there is a balance between teaching your kids to be independent and dependent.
5. Having kids is a big responsibility. But if you take on your role as a parent as the only role, you are ignoring your self care time, which could inadvertently be hurting your kids. If your kids always see you stressed or exhausted, and always involved in everything but taking care of yourself, they will see parenthood as a stressful choice. They will see that becoming a parent means giving up your life for your children. Remember to take time to take care of yourself and your spouse, so that everything can live a healthy and happy life together.
Read more on common parenting mistakes at Psychology Today.
What is a ‘co-parent’?
According to Dictionary.com the definition of a co-parent is:
- a divorced or separated parent who shares equally with the other parent in the custody and care of a child.
- to share equally with another parent in the care of (a child)
- to act as a co-parent
Coparenting can mean a variety of different things. If a couple is separated or divorced, it might mean how to best take care of the children as individuals but also together successfully. Coparenting also occurs in a family where the parents are still married. Each parent shares the responsibility for the child or children equally, and their ultimate goal is to provide the best possible care as a cohesive unit.
No matter what your family looks like, communicating in a positive and effective manner is always the best way to achieve healthy family dynamics.
Having separated parents seems to be very common. Divorce rates are high and some parents are not married to begin with. In fact, even though the number has been decreasing, the CDC reports that 40.2% of births in the US in 2014 were to unmarried mothers. Of course some of these parents may still be together or continue on to get married, others will be in a situation where they are co-parenting. Co-parenting might seem difficult, and sometimes it can be, but there are ways to co-parent that can help you provide the best environment possible for your children.
Planning and communication are crucial when you are co-parenting. This article from PsychologyToday.com gives some tips on the most important things to plan for with the other parent. Here are some of the topics of focus:
- Overnight stays
- Routine time
- Activity time
- Daily decisions
- Major decisions
When planning these, the most important thing is to continue to think about what would be best for the child. Even though something may be difficult or inconvenient for you, it is the goal of the parent to put the child’s best interest first.
Writing out a plan is a good idea. By doing this, there is no confusion as to what the expectations and goals are. There are tips to writing out a plan in the article above as well. If there is major difficulty in communication or difference in opinion between parents, it could be a good idea to have someone mediate. Sometimes counseling can help parents to work on communication with each other, whether that be throughout the parenting journey or just in the beginning.
Having minimal conflict between parents will help the child to feel more safe and secure.
There is no manual with the answers to co-parenting and there is not one right way to do it. What is most important is finding what works best for your family so that everyone involved can be their most successful self.