Treating these types of issues is not just about targeting unhealthy and problematic behaviors and reducing them, but also about increasing healthy and positive behaviors that help you manage your couple conflict and parenting practices. In order to address your direct parenting behaviors, the following behaviors are offered as healthy ways to parent effectively even during times of couple conflict:
- Set aside problems in the couple relationship and use constructive communication with your partner about parenting matters. This includes communicating with your partner on a regular basis about parenting and checking in before making any parenting decisions in which you should both be involved.
- Avoid arguments in front of your children. Having discussions to handle conflict may be ok if it shows them constructive ways to handle conflict. However, heated fights in front of your children should always be avoided.
- Avoid talking negatively about your partner in front of your children.
- Avoid at all costs drawing the children into conflicts between you and your partner. Even if your child is old enough to clearly understand the conflict this is NEVER a good idea. Rely on family, friends, or professional help if you need to vent to help cope with the stress of couple problems. If your children try to get involved, set healthy boundaries by letting them know that their parents will deal with each other to solve their problems.
- Continue showing an interest in your children’s lives, even during times of couple conflict. For younger children, continue making them feel safety and stability (e.g., maintaining daily routines) and assure them that any problems that their parents have are not their fault.
- Do your best to compartmentalize and contain conflict with your partner and avoid letting negative interactions spill over into interactions with your children.
- Adopt healthy stress management behaviors like exercising, meditating, and deep breathing to help take care of yourself and minimize stress. Use self-management behaviors such as positive thought mantras or time-outs to help you manage difficult family moments and avoid escalated conflict.
- Deal with the conflict between yourself and your partner directly. Do not be afraid to seek professional help from a couples therapist (if you have not already) to help you and your partner navigate your conflict in a healthy way and avoid letting it negatively affect your children.
Next, in the first exercise of the current session, we help you identify those behaviors that are unhealthy and problematic in your relationship with your partner and child.