Raising a child is a challenging experience. The old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” takes on a whole new meaning when a couple becomes parents for the first time. A child can survive in a single parent household, but most child psychologists agree that it is in the best interest of a child for both parents to divvy up the responsibilities of parenting and the father’s role in parenting is equally important to the mother’s. Here’s why sharing the load – aka co-parenting – can set your child’s development on the optimal course.
How Co-Parenting Benefits Kids
Children whose parents help one another and share responsibility in all household and parenting duties are likely to be well adjusted as adults. More so than children with one parent that solely takes on the majority of child care in the home. Whether it is a simple task of packing your cute diaper tote or cleaning up a spill on the couch, your child is watching and learning from your behavior all the time.
Social and Psychological Benefits
Children benefit, both socially and psychologically, from having both parents participate in child-rearing. Co-parenting teaches kids how to communicate and resolve conflict in healthy ways. That’s in addition to learning other useful skills, including how their mom and dad handle parenting and other household responsibilities. Children will learn from and practice these skills throughout their lives, so it’s important to set a good example early on for them. By sharing the load with your partner around the house, from doing doing laundry to washing dishes, you can do exactly that.
Young Children are Very Impressionable
Children are like sponges. They soak up everything they touch, see, or hear; then they form their own beliefs and understandings from watching others interact with one another. From the time they are born, children begin to learn and mimic the behaviors of their parents and other close family members.
So, when a child is young especially, make sure they witness the benefits of successfully sharing the load between you and your spouse. Then they can later apply those same great skills in their own life. The way you two share the load, including what you say and your actions with one another, as well as how you communicate with others outside of the home, will make an impression on your child at an early age.
Teamwork: Share the Load Equally as Parents
For parents to be successful at sharing the responsibility of having a child, it is important to build a strong relationship and form teamwork. If one parent sees the other struggling, he or she should step in and help, if possible, in order to balance some of the stress of parenting out between both partners.
It is important for parents to be on the same page. Work to communicate effectively to avoid conflict that can cause more damage than good to a child’s emotional health.
Parents who are successfully co-parenting usually have low stress levels and resolve any conflict in a healthy and productive manner. This is a skill your child will pick up on and will use in their own interactions with other kids and friends. It will also help your child to negotiate and resolve conflict well as they enter adulthood.
Mothers and Fathers Offer Different Things
Yale University Medical School and Child Study Lab’s child psychiatrist Kyle D. Pruett, M.D. says that mothers and fathers each bring something different to the table when it comes to parenting. Children react differently to each parent because of these differences in parenting and approaches to various issues that arise. As long as parents successfully manage their responsibilities as a team or share the load, these differences will benefit the child rather than hinder them.
Sharing the Load: Tradition Turned on Its Head
Traditionally, women were expected to perform most of the child care responsibilities while fathers were expected to provide for their family financially and handle discipline. In the past 50 years, though, there has been a shift to the parenting paradigm. By the 1970’s, most women began working in addition to raising children and taking care of the household responsibilities.
Today, both parents in most families work outside the home. And, as a result, childcare doesn’t fall on the shoulders of only one parent. Instead, there’s a lot of co-parenting. In this scenario, mothers and fathers work together to manage all household chores and care for the children effectively. Sharing the load benefits their marriage and creates a happier and healthier household for their children.
There are Differences between Mothers and Fathers
As Dr. Pruett points out, both parents have different approaches to parenting and bring different emotions to interactions with their child. Furthermore, children respond differently to those interactions. Mothers tend to be more tender and nurturing in interactions with their child. Meanwhile, fathers tend to be more exciting and unpredictable. Children see these differences and learn to react to these qualities, which can benefit the child overall.
As a clinical child psychiatrist, Dr. Pruett spent many years researching child and parent interactions. He also learned a lot from the interactions with his kids. Then, at 54 years-old, he became a father for the third time and says he now plays a more active role in being a father. He has written several books on the importance of a father’s role in parenting and the advantages of successfully co-parenting.
Importance of a Father’s Role in Parenting
Pruett says in his interview with The New York Times, that children benefit from having an active father in their lives. Children whose fathers participate in their upbringing are more likely to stay in school. They’re also less likely to be involved in criminal activity.
He also cites the many psychological benefits to children having fathers who are active parents. For example, there can be reduced suicide rates and death rates resulting from accidents. This improved emotional and mental health also leads to success in many aspects of a child’s adult life.
When you’re parents who share the load, you teach your kids vital life skills. Essentially, you’re helping them to be healthier, happier, more successful adults down the road. While mothers traditionally have provided most child care, research show fathers are equally important in a child’s development. Ideally, both parents work together and communicate well in order to provide the best environment for their child.
Your Thoughts on Sharing the Load as Parents
Do you find it difficult sharing the load with your partner when it comes to parenting or has it been an easy thing to do? Also, do you have a positive story to share about a certain father’s role in parenting? Speak up in the comments section below!