Do you handle the majority of activities surrounding your child’s learning and thinking differences? Do you wish your partner played a bigger role? Follow these tips for encouraging a reluctant partner to be more involved.
1. Share knowledge about your child.
If you’re more available to take your child to appointments and attend meetings, it’s easy to slip into “expert” mode about her learning and thinking differences. As a result, your partner may defer to you on decisions or take a backseat role in general. To change this dynamic, encourage your partner to join you at appointments. If your partner can’t be there, take notes and discuss what happened. Add your partner’s name to important email chains, and send links to things you read online.
2. Discuss the schedule.
Hang a calendar that shows the week’s events, or create a shared online calendar. On Sundays look at the week ahead together. When you both see doctor’s appointments, school meetings, and extracurricular activities in one view, it’s easier for each of you to make plans about who can do what. Even if your partner can’t do as much as you, it’s helpful if you’re both aware of the events that concern your child.
3. Divvy up responsibilities.
Make a list of everything that needs to be done involving your child during times when both you and your partner are home. It may include helping with homework, organizing the backpack, planning a weekend activity, and so on. Divide and conquer based on your respective strengths and interests: “I don’t have a lot of patience for helping with homework. But I do have a lot of energy before dinner, and I’m glad to take Taylor on a bike ride.”
4. Ask for help.
Parenting kids with learning and thinking differences requires a lot of energy and resources. If you’re feeling frazzled, don’t wait for your partner to offer to help. Be specific about what you need: “While I’m showering, can you handle breakfast?” or “Can you send an email to the teacher confirming our meeting time?”
5. Make “tagging out” OK.
Every parent has a different threshold for frustration. Come up with a signal you can each use when you’ve reached yours. Knowing that you’re willing to step in can make your partner more comfortable taking on more responsibility. And letting your partner know that sometimes you’re at your wits’ end and need relief says that you value your partner’s support and are confident that your partner can care for your child.
6. Encourage one-on-one time.
While you’re running errands, paying bills or, better yet, having some “me” time, let your partner take charge of your child. Maybe they can go to the playground for an hour, or rake leaves, or clean out the car. As they spend more time together, your partner may gain insights and ideas about your child that’ll be new to you. Having special knowledge can make your partner more engaged, and sharing observations can draw you closer.
7. Respect your partner’s parenting style.
It’s OK (even expected!) for you to each to have your own unique style of parenting. It’s natural that each of you will do things your own way. One of you may be naturally more permissive, for example. The other might be stricter. Neither approach is “right” or “better.” Kids can adapt to differing styles, as long as you present a united front about rules and values.
8. Praise your partner’s efforts.
When you see your partner taking more initiative regarding issues concerning your child, make sure it’s clear that you noticed. You might say, “Homework is going so much better since you took charge,” or “Thanks for asking how therapy went today. It makes me feel good when we operate as a team.” Showing your appreciation can go a long way toward encouraging repeat performances.
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About the author
About the author
Lexi Walters Wright is the former Community Manager at Understood. As a writer and editor, she helps parents make more informed choices for their children and for themselves.
Molly Algermissen, PhD is an associate professor of medical psychology at Columbia University Medical Center and clinical director of PROMISE.