1. What are our guiding principles as parents?
Have you given thought as a couple about how you want to raise your children and parent them on a day-to-day basis? Do you have a philosophy you both embrace that serves as a foundation for making parenting decisions? Discuss together what your primary parenting values are and how you want to apply them in the daily work of raising your kids—from how you deal with behavior problems to the way you instill values in them.
2. What do you see as my best parenting skills?
If you are parents, find out from your spouse what he or she believes are your strongest skills in parenting. Give specific instances of how your partner applied these skills with your children. Talk about how and why both of you have something unique to offer as parents and how your children will benefit from what you both bring to the table. Acknowledge and compliment each other for contributing these positive qualities, boundaries, and emotions to your children’s lives.
3. Where do you struggle most in parenting our children?
Children go through different life stages, and some of them are more difficult for parents than others. They can test our patience and best intentions. We can stray from our vision of who we want to be with our kids and how we want to raise them. Learn from each other what each of you struggles with in raising your kids right now. Do you both struggle with the same difficulties, or can one of you step in where the other feels weak? How can you support each other in these struggles?
4. What parenting skills from your parents do you want to emulate with our children?
Think about the way your parents raised you and what they got right. It’s often not until we have children ourselves that we appreciate all that our parents did for us and why they made the decisions they did. How were your parents good role models for you as you strive to be a good parent? Talk together about what positive parenting skills you want to adopt from your parents and use together with your children.
5. What do you want to do differently from your parents?
No parent gets it right all the time, and often siblings in the same family require different parenting skills. You might have felt misunderstood, unfairly punished, ignored, or harshly treated by your parents. Maybe you didn’t like the rules in your household or felt one parent was too strict. If your parents had a style that you dislike, you might unconsciously find yourself emulating it. Ask each other this question so you can carefully consider what you don’t want to replay with your own children.
6. How do we handle disagreements related to parenting our children effectively?
There will be times when you disagree about an issue with your children. It’s important both for your relationship and for your child’s sense of security that you present a united front and not argue about a parenting issue in front of your child. That said, decide now how you will handle these disagreements, where you’ll have the conversation, and what you’ll do if you can’t work out a mutually agreeable solution.
7. How can we manage the stresses of parenting so we don’t take it out on each other?
Children afford a lot of joy and satisfaction, but having children changes your romantic relationship. You no longer have the time and freedoms you had when it was just the two of you. You have many more life demands and situations that cause conflict, anxiety, and stress. As the heads of your family, the two of you need to maintain a close, peaceful relationship so you can support each other and create an emotionally healthy environment for your kids. What are some specific actions you can take when the demands of parenting become too much?
8. How can I best support you as a co-parent in this family, particularly when you feel stressed?
Maybe you come home from work exhausted, and the kids are fighting while you’re trying to fix dinner. Or perhaps your daughter asks for help with her homework, but you’re overwhelmed trying to pay the bills. There are times when we know we need to be there for our kids, but we just don’t have the energy to step up. Those are the times when your partner or spouse can step in and offer support or verbally reinforce your decision or rules. Discuss circumstances when this has happened in the past or might happen in the future. What specific kinds of parenting support do each of you need from the other during stressful times?
9. What are some specific ways we can put our relationship first so our household isn’t “child centered”?
Children feel most secure when it’s clear that their parents are a couple before they are parents. They need to know who sets the rules and who is in charge. Children need adults to step up and show them that they don’t rule the family through their wants or behaviors. Your relationship as a couple sets the stage for the happiness of the entire family. How are you putting your relationship first?
What boundaries are you setting with your children to reinforce that your connection as a couple is primary? Discuss some specific things you want to do to establish your family as “parent-centered.”
10. What do we agree we will never say or do in front of our children?
In addition to working out parenting conflict privately, what else do you both wish to handle or do without your children present? It’s certainly OK to work out conflict in front of them in a calm way, but you likely don’t want them to witness you yelling at each other or behaving badly. Talk together about what you don’t want to say or do around your kids and what you’ll do in the heat of the moment if they observe you.
Follow-up: Are there any behavior adjustments you’d like to request from your partner related to your children? What specific action steps will you both take to support each other as parents and maintain the integrity of your relationship as a couple? Write these down and determine how and when you will initiate these changes or actions.