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Updated: Jan 14, 2022

No matter how a family is made up, each member plays a unique role in the function and structure of the family. Individual traits, skills and qualities all contribute to the family team in some way.

For parents, working together as a team is so important because it demonstrates what team work looks like. It will also show children how to communicate respectfully and how to build healthy relationships themselves.

Working as a team will also benefit each of you. Aside from the obvious benefits of working to your strengths and avoiding conflict, when we feel supported and encouraged, we tend to feel happier and more confident. This can then help you feel more satisfied with your parenting and life as a family.

For parents who are separated, the challenge is harder, but still an important goal to aim for. Finding appropriate and amicable divisions of duties is usually the most obvious difficulty, but ensuring consistent messaging and levels of support is often harder. Remembering in these cases that there is a common goal here (the child/children’s upbringing) will help as you find the necessary compromises.

There are a few core skills that will help you as parents. Remember that no parent finds this easy all the time, and we all benefit from learning and growing into our role.

Talking and listening: being able to communicate in ways that help you connect with each other and strengthen your relationship. The Same Page Technique I mentioned a few months ago can be a useful tool to help and can be found here.

Accept and value each other: spend time together on shared interests and take an interest in your partners hobbies.

Focus on solving problems: The Common Ground Technique is a useful tool to help with this skill (see earlier blog post). To do this, you both write down the issues you feel are present. Next try and identify strategies to help solve these issues together and prioritise them. This technique can also work for co-parenting too. It can help you see that you are working together to resolve some of the serious issues you are experiencing in the family.

Focus on one problem at a time and think of solutions to the problem together to determine which one works the best. Once this solution has been put into practise, give it time to see what happens.

Back each other up: Children are great at quietly observing you when you think they are not and they are great at playing you off against each other if they can benefit in some way! Creating family rules together can be a great way of letting everyone contribute and know where they stand. Have each member sign it and display it somewhere visible in the house. Decide on rewards and consequences together as parents and ensure you both follow them to encourage consistency.

Managing conflict: Managing conflict in a positive and constructive way is important not only for you both, but it will also demonstrate to your children how to manage conflict themselves. By being an active listener, you can validate how your partner feels and ensure you understand their point of view even if you may not agree with it. Using “I” rather than “you” statements can also be helpful to ensure you focus on the impact it has on you (e.g. “I feel frustrated when you”) rather than focusing on judgement of another (e.g. “you never…”)

This brings me to my final point. Working as a team can be hard and situations can be challenging and surprise us out of the blue but try to find the humour in them. Laughter can reduce stress. Laugh with your partner not at them! I remember once being frustrated when a child demanded I tie up her shoelace for her whilst I was in the middle of an important task. I politely suggested to her to go and find her manners. I started to feel myself becoming stressed when I noticed this child opening all the drawers and cupboards of the classroom. When I asked her what she was doing, she politely said “I’m trying to find my manners”.

Look after each other and spend time building these memories in the moments of family life together.

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