How to Co-Parent Effectively

adjusting to your 'new' relationship
How to Co-Parent: Couple Holding Baby
© Shutterstock / Inara Prusakova

The arrival of a child is so full of emotions. Love, excitement, fear, anxiety, the what-ifs, and the question of "Can I really do this?" may be just a few of them. The one part you may or may not have thought about is your relationship. How will adding a child to your relationship change it?

Adding a child to a couple's relationship

Regardless of how long you and your partner have been together, adding a child will always have the potential to change your relationship. For some couples the transition to becoming a family is seamless,  while for others adding a child can create some pretty intense feelings. You may see a side of your partner that you may not have seen before. The support, the love, and the undeniable connection you may feel are bigger feelings than you could ever imagine. But, you may also see each other at your absolute worst. This will be the time you will be the most sleep-deprived, short-fused, and overwhelmed, all while feeling the most in love you've ever felt. The adjustment can be hard, but here are a few tips to help you figure it out.

Involve both parents

The first step in making parenting a team effort (or partnership) is to involve both parents. When you are in the hospital or soon after delivery, have your partner share in the duties of changing diapers, supporting while nursing, or preparing bottles. Skin-to-skin is a great way to bond for both parents. For a new parent who may not have a lot of experience around children, it is important to allow them the opportunity to learn and build their confidence. If they put the diaper on backwards, they will quickly realize their own mistake when they are covered in bodily functions, and without a doubt, will have learned from it and will not do it again. The more chances they have to do something, the more comfortable they will become doing it!

Remember if they are still learning, they may not do it the exact way you are and that's okay. Babies and children can easily adapt to other ways of having things done. Stepping in and doing it, taking over or criticizing the whole time will only push your partner away, causing them to be reluctant to help the next time.

Share the responsibility

When the other parent is home, it is beneficial to allow them some time to try and comfort baby so your child learns to be soothed by both parents. They may not calm down as instantly as they would with you, but let the other parent figure out what works for them by trial and error.

We realize this may be quite hard for some, but try not to step in and "rescue" baby right away. Once you return to baby/child, try not to run to them with a rescuing mentality. This will only reinforce to your child that they are not "safe."

You may need to walk away for a few minutes so that the baby can’t see, hear, or smell you while the other parent is attempting to bond/soothe your little one.

Help baby bond

If your child struggles or is unhappy when you are not with them, it can be disheartening for your partner. To help build your child’s confidence and trust that the other parent can also be a source of comfort, you will want to start small. Give your child and partner the time to bond by stepping out of the room, taking a shower, cooking dinner or going for a short walk. This will allow them the opportunity to play, hang out, or snuggle without the pressure of hours and hours alone. The first few times you attempt this, it may not go very well, and that’s understandable; however, it’s really important to continue doing it. The more often you allow the opportunity for your partner and child to be together, the more at ease both will become, which in turn will help you get the breaks you absolutely need.

There are no rules when it comes to parenting your child while maintaining a healthy relationship. It may take a back seat for a little while as you both adjust to the new addition but as with all good things, it takes work. Squeeze out time for just the two of you, keep talking and having open conversations. And remember that a hug can go a long way in helping you reconnect.

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