Parenting With a Partner: Building a Strong Relationship

“Surround yourself with partners who are better than you are.”
—David Ogilvy, advertising executive

Parenting can make you feel isolated. If you’re married or living with someone, the two of you may feel too busy to spend time connecting with each other, and if you’re a divorced or single parent, you may feel less supported.

Your child is important, but so are the significant adults in your life. Who is your parenting partner? Make time to be with that person—whether that partner is a spouse or simply a close friend who keeps you going or acts as a role model for your child, you can find the support you need, while taking care of yourself and your relationships.

Tips For …

  • all parents
    • With your partner, present a united front to your kids. Even if you disagree privately, work out your differences so that your kids aren’t aware of them. Watch for your kids trying to get something from one parent without the knowledge of the other.
    • Sincerely compliment your partner every day for one week. Notice what happens as the week goes on. Research shows that happy people experience positive emotions three times more often than negative ones.
    • Having an “excellent” relationship with a spouse or parenting partner will help you feel more successful as a parent, says a Search Institute poll of over 1,000 parents. This is true whether you’re married or a single parent. Those with an excellent relationship experience fewer challenges as parents and feel more confident in dealing with the daily challenges of parenting. You can download the free study fact sheet, summary report or full report here.
  • Nurture your relationship with your partner. If you don’t have one, find a close friend or relative and support each other.

  • parents with children ages birth to 5
    • Find a trustworthy babysitter, such as a grandparent, neighbor, or a reliable teenager. It’s important to spend time with your partner,or by yourself, during your child’s early childhood.
    • Be careful not to turn against your partner when stress levels get high. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in parenting a young child because of having fewer financial resources and less time and energy. Remember that your partner may be feeling as stressed as you are. Work on getting through the stresses together.
  • Find family activities you all enjoy doing together. It’s fun to talk with a close friend as your kids play at the playground together. It can feel intimate to walk hand in hand with your partner at the zoo while your child gets excited about the giraffes and lions.

  • parents with children ages 6 to 9
    • Keep an eye on your family’s schedule. As kids grow and parents take on more responsibility at work or in volunteer activities, it’s easy to become roommates who rarely see each other. Schedule time on the calendar with your family, with yourself, and with your partner.
    • Notice what roles you take on with your kids. Who gets them up and going in the morning? Who takes them to activities? Who gets them to bed at night? Who plays with them? Who talks with them? See if you can find a better balance so that one parent isn’t doing a lot more than the other.
  • Take turns reading to your child (and listening to your child read aloud). Your child will learn different things about reading from different adults.

  • parents with children ages 10 to 15
    • Keep connected with your partner—even when everyone is very busy. Tuck a note under your partner’s pillow, leave a message on his or her voice mailbox, or text or e-mail each other once or twice a day.
    • Talk about your hopes and dreams for your child. The more you can be in sync with your partner, the easier it will be to parent your child.
  • Talk with your partner about how you feel about your child entering puberty. A child entering puberty can raise issues, memories, and worries in parents.

  • parents with children ages 16 to 18
    • Make your home a welcoming place for teenagers. Not only can you and your partner be a role model for your own teenager, but you can also influence other teenagers as well.
    • Be flexible. When you discover your kids won’t be at home, steal some time for the two of you. Make it a priority not only to be a great parent but also a great partner.
    • Model a healthy, caring relationship to your older teenager. Teenagers notice how adults interact, how they deal with conflict, and how they care for each other. A helpful book is The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman, Ph.D.
  • Notice which parent (or other adult) may have more influence over your teenager. Be strategic in using this influence when your teenager needs to make big decisions (such as choosing what to do after high school or whether or not to stick with an activity).

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