Last Spring, Andrea Peterson of the Wall Street Journal published, “So Cute, So Hard on Marriage”, an article about couples taking preemptive steps to curb the decline in marital satisfaction following the birth of a child. While the article did a good job summarizing the research suggesting that such counseling is helpful, it did not provide parents with the background to understand why mental health professionals believe that pre-baby counseling may be beneficial.
The coparenting literature has focused on people’s perceptions of their coparenting relationships before and after children are born. Perceptions? Some research has demonstrated that a person’s perception of what their parenting relationship with their spouse will look like before their child is born is a powerful predictor of what the quality of their coparenting relationship will be. The further the perception is from reality, the more difficulty a couple has in adjusting to their new life. According to James McHale, Ph.D. coparenting is not to be taken lightly and the consequences of a negative coparenting relationship early on in a child’s life may have negative effects on a child’s development.
Given this information, it seems prudent for more couples to take the time to speak with a mental health professional regarding their thoughts and ideas about how they would like to raise their future children. While it is not important to parent in the exact same way, it is important to plan how to handle the stress of parenting and maintain an active coparenting relationship when faced with differences. Abdicating and avoiding ones coparenting responsibility is not a helpful answer to resolving parenting conflict and may negatively impact a couple’s relationship.
For those parents that thought they were on the same page early on only to find out later that they were mistaken, coparenting counseling is available. It is never too late to teach your child that healthy relationship between parents matters.
For more information about Dr. McHale and his coparenting research, please read When People Parent Together: Let’s Talk about Coparenting.