By Lexi Walters Wright
Do you handle the majority of activities surrounding your child’s learning and attention issues? Do you wish your partner played a bigger role? Follow these tips for encouraging a reluctant partner to be more involved.
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 attention issues. 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 he can’t be there, take notes and discuss what happened. Add his name to important email chains, and send him links to things you read online.
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 for him to be aware of the events that concern your child.
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 her with homework. But I do have a lot of energy before dinner, and I’m glad to take her on a bike ride.”
Parenting kids with learning and attention issues 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?”
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 him know that sometimes you’re at your wits’ end and need relief says that you value his support and are confident that he can care for your child.
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 him more engaged, and sharing observations can draw you closer.
It’s OK (even expected!) for you to each to have your own unique style of parenting. As your partner gets more involved, it’s natural that he’ll do things his 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.
When you see your partner taking more initiative regarding issues concerning your child, make sure he knows 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.
Do you and your partner avoid certain topics because the conversation will become heated? Maybe you dread discussing parenting techniques or how much services for your child cost. These tips can help ease tough talks.
Raising a child with learning and attention issues can place a lot of stress on the relationship between you and your partner. Use these ideas to keep your marriage or partnership strong.
Lexi Walters Wright is veteran writer and editor who helps parents make more informed choices for their children and for themselves.
Molly Algermissen, Ph.D., is an associate professor of medical psychology at Columbia University Medical Center and clinical director of PROMISE.
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