Co-Parenting: A unified approach to positive child guidance when divorced or separated
“We couldn’t agree on anything when we were married. How could we possibly agree on how to discipline our children now that we are divorced?”
Many of us, married or otherwise committed, find it difficult to agree on the best approach to positive guidance for our children. It would seem, then, that for divorced or separated parents this would be an even more difficult task. The good news is that many families do figure out a way to maintain consistency in positive guidance for children even though parents no longer live together in the same home.
Guidance, according to Dan Gartrell, is “a way of teaching that nurtures each child’s potential through consistently positive (sometimes firm, but always friendly) interactions.” Discipline, on the other hand, focuses more on rewards and punishment without the positive coaching and modeling of appropriate behavior. Most early childhood and parenting specialists greatly prefer an approach using positive guidance.
While some divorced parents may easily reach agreement on guidance techniques, others see it as an insurmountable obstacle. If you find yourself in the latter category, don’t give up hope. The positives of finding even a somewhat unified approach to child guidance are well worth the effort for you and your children.
Your approach to reaching agreement depends first on how well you communicate with your ex-partner. If you are on good terms, the topic of guidance will be easier to broach. If communication is strained, you may want to seek the support of a family therapist or take a positive guidance class together.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
Children are constantly growing and changing and the issues at one age evolve into different issues as they get older. Decide when to pick your battles and when to let things go. Keep the larger goal in mind of providing stability and a positive role model for your children. That may help you let some of the small things go.
Find time to enjoy your children, focus on the positive as much as you can, and have fun together. And remember that it’s okay to seek help – whether through a therapist, counselor, or trusted friend or family member – if things get overwhelming.