Negotiating those new Pandemic Parental Responsibilities

Christy Lanterman, Licensed Professional Counselor on Sep 16, 2020 in Relationship and Family

Many parents are struggling to adapt to the new norm of raising children during a pandemic. Between a decrease in childcare options, kids attending school virtually from home, and new concerns of keeping families healthy, parents are struggling to navigate the new demands placed on them.

Parents are having a difficult time negotiating these new responsibilities amongst the chaos. In turn, couples sometimes find themselves in gridlocked conversations on how to adapt and share the new load. It can be demoralizing to feel like you’re in conflict with your partner during such a stressful time to be a parent.

Thanks to relationship experts John and Julie Gottman, we have a conflict blueprint that helps relationships move from gridlock to understanding and compromise. Now more than ever couples are needing guidance on how to negotiate these new pandemic parental responsibilities. If you’re a parent having a difficult time negotiating these new pandemic parental responsibilities, consider the following tips based on relationship and negotiation research...

Make a New Goal: Make the goal to discuss the topic in a way where both partners feel understood by the other.

Reflective Listening before Persuasion: Take turns being the listener and speaker. Before engaging in persuasion, it is a must that each parent is able to first summarize the other’s position to the speaker’s satisfaction. Building strong and trusting relationships where kids can thrive involves really listening to your co-parent.

Assume Similarities: When seeing a positive trait in yourself, also try to see how that trait is in your co-parent. When identifying a negative trait in your co-parent, try to see some of that in yourself, as well.

Tips for the Speaker

Speak honestly about your feelings and your perspective on the situation.

Avoid trying to persuade your partner of your angle, simply explain your point of view.

Avoid blaming, criticism and contempt. Avoid using “you” statements.

Use “I” statements and talk about your feelings regarding the situation.

Present a specific, positive need that informs your partner how they can help. For example “It would be really helpful if you would do the bedtime routine with the kids on _____ evenings” or “I need more time during the day to focus on work, could we please brainstorm together how we can make that happen?”

Tips for the Listener

Prepare yourself to really listen to your partner. Postpone your agenda and your perspective. Hear your partner’s stress and frustration, even if you don’t agree with the details.

Tune into your partner’s feelings. Your goal here is to simply understand their perspective.

Ask open-ended questions that deepen the dialogue and show your partner you’re interested in their point of view. Some examples might be:

What is the most difficult part of this situation for you?

What are you most afraid of?

How does this situation affect you?

What are your values telling you about this situation?

What makes the situation better?

Avoid being critical and minimizing your partner's feelings. If you’re feeling defensive, try to turn that into a question that produces more understanding and brings clarification. For example:

Instead of “You’re asking too much of me” or “I can never do enough to make you happy” (defensiveness) try “I can see you are needing more from me, can you help me understand specifically what it is you need?” (clarifying).

Summarize and reflect back what you hear. Strong and healthy relationships make a habit of bearing witness to what each partner is facing. Being there for our partners by listening and reflecting back their feelings makes them feel less alone, less stressed and more supported. The goal here is to summarize back to your partner what was expressed to their satisfaction.

Finally, validate your partner’s emotions. Sometimes there is nothing more powerful than to hear “you make sense” when feeling overwhelmed. Even if you do not agree with all that you’ve heard, try to find one part of your partner’s experience that you can empathize with. Focus on communicating understanding and validation for the part that makes sense to you.

Christy Lanterman is a Counselor in Kansas City, KS.
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