Parenting Together in Partnership


Conflict and struggles between parents are part of almost every Aware Parenting consultation I offer. Whatever the unique circumstances of a family, it is inevitable that there will be times of disagreement and disaccord. Clients often want guidance and support on how to get onto the the same page in parenting with their partner or co-parent and how to bring more connection and compassion to their relationship with the other parent of their children. 

Fortunately the Aware Parenting framework, developed by Aletha Solter Ph.D,  gives us many tools and strategies that we can also bring to our adult relationships. The core components of compassion and connection that lie under all of the Aware Parenting approach, can be so helpful to shape our relationships with the other parent of our children, as well as our relationships with our children and ourselves. The Aware Parenting principles support us to navigate the stresses of parenting,  whether you are together with the other parent of your children, separated from them or in a blended family.

Aware Parenting also supports parents to release and heal the painful feelings we still carry, to explore our imprints and to meet our own needs. We are then more able to be the parent we want to be and have beautiful loving connections with our children. And we can then bring more awareness and connection to our families in the form of aware partnering, to navigate the stresses, challenges and conflicts of family life. 

The Stresses of Aware Parenting in Partnership:

Before we have children, we have these dreams of what parenthood will look like. But we don't anticipate how many big feelings we will have as parents, how intense and overwhelming they will be at times, and difficult it will be to share parenthood with our partners. Being responsible for other humans that comes with parenting is huge. And very few of us receive the support we need in our families so it is very common for us to feel overwhelmed and stressed in parenthood, which often creates tension and conflicts with our partner/co-parent. We are often facing so much stress in health, relationships, finance, what's going on in the world. Of course, navigating conflicts in our partnerships and in co-parenting is also stressful for our children and usually results in our children's behaviour being more challenging  so it's easy to get into a vicious cycle.

Perhaps you are on different page when it comes to parenting your children? Perhaps you are aware parenting and your partner or ex is not. Perhaps you are doing lots of reading on parenting but it is not appreciated? Maybe you are arguing a lot with the other parent of your children and there is distance between you and disagreement about how best to respond to your children and to meet their needs. Or perhaps you are having conflict with them about things unrelated to parenting, which is impacting you and your children. 

All of these can be really stressful to navigate and this quote from Aletha Solter's is so reassuring; 

"The mark of a healthy family is not the absence of conflicts, but the manner in which conflicts are resolved”.

It is also helpful to remember that it is normal for raising young children to impact our relationships with our other parent and relationships are imperfect. Often we might find ourselves comparing our relationships to others or to the vision of the perfect family on Instagram.  But our relationships are all flawed and acceptance of our imperfection is such an important aspect of Aware Parenting. It is so helpful to offer ourselves acceptance and awareness that challenging things happens, that we often hurt the people we love, and that relationships are complex and difficult. And to know that Aware Parenting is so powerful for our children so we can reassure ourselves that even if it is just one parent who is practicing this way, it is still profound for our children. 

Bringing more Compassion and Connection to our Partnerships with Aware Parenting:

The 3 aspects of aware parenting can deeply support us in our relationship with the other parent of our children - prioritising closeness and connection, meeting needs and peaceful conflict resolution, an understanding of the impact of stress and trauma on our physiology and our emotional wellbeing, and understanding how listening to feelings, receiving compassion, laughter and play are all profoundly healing. 

It's about respectful communication, seeing each human as a unique individual with their own feelings and needs and thoughts/beliefs. We learn to share our feelings and offer compassionate listening, holding space for big painful feelings and learn how to sit in discomfort ourselves. When we are activated, aware parenting supports us to reach out for listening and get support so we can come back to feeling grounded and clear. As we learn to do this for ourselves, we can learn to also offer this to our partners and to encourage them to reach out for their own listening and support so that they come back to feeling grounded and clear too. As we learn to recognise when our children's behaviour is coming from a place of un resolved trauma, we can learn to recognise that in our partners too. With this perspective, we can learn to offer compassion and understanding to our partners. 

And as aware parenting describes the importance of meeting needs so we learn to deeply value ensuring needs are met. We can see all the ways that our own needs and our partner's needs are not being met and then come together with this understanding to find ways to address that, so that unmet needs feelings are not creating conflict in our relationship with the other parent. We are then more likely to take care of ourselves and each other, to do things together that bring us joy and pleasure and connection. And aware parenting shows us the vital universal needs for autonomy and agency and choice and how painful it is when these needs are not met. 

As we learn to be more compassionate with our children and ourselves and doing some healing work and learning how to be loving ourselves and our children unconditionally, we can then start to offer compassion to our partner/co-parent. When we are receiving compassionate listening, we can start to be more fluent in this language and offer it to others. We practice offering compassion to another adult with our listening partners, regardless of what they are sharing, even if it activates us, to come from a heart-centred space.  

We learn to recognise what’s coming up for us and our inner child in the challenging moments and  then find ways for our inner child to receive compassion and reparative  experiences. We learn to explain to our partner what it’s bringing up for us and how our nervous system is responding and then offer them the same perspective and understanding too. We appreciate how easy it is to feel activated when so many of us have not received the listening we need for so many years so we are then able to recognise that in our partners and ourselves. So we learn that when we feel triggered by something our partner says, we can sit with that discomfort and explore with curiosity what is coming up for us, instead of reacting with blame and judgement. We learn to see that conflicts and challenges are opportunities to feel into and heal what is there for us. 

We learn to see how big feelings of frustration, disempowerment, anger, sadness, disconnection for us and for our partners, that lie under so many of the conflicts in our relationships,  can be from present stresses and also from past when our younger parts had similar experiences and our now circumstances take us straight back there. So listening for us is crucial to offload all the many painful feelings that come up at times of conflict. Wanting our partner to be different and to do things differently and getting angry at them, only makes things harder when it’s the trauma underneath that is causing them to behave that way and have those reactions to our children. Instead, when we can offer them compassion and understanding, that makes it more likely that they will be able to be make changes so that they can support our children in a way that we all enjoy. 

We learn that, just as our children have broken cookie moments, when they express lots of big feelings in response to a seemingly small challenge as a pretext for releasing accumulated feelings, the same is true for us and our partners. This supports us to cultivate so much more compassion and understanding and means we are much less likely to take things personally. 

As we learn to offer loving limits to our children, when we are clear about what we are willing for and clear that they have big feelings that are driving their behaviour, we also learn to offer loving limits to our partners. This often requires us to be getting listening and doing some journalling to get really clear about what we are willing for and not willing for from our partner/co-parent, and then offering that in a clear and respectful way.

So the more listening we receive, the more we can offer. The more clarity we have, the more we can come back to clear and compassionate communication, all of which bring harmony and respect in our relationships. And from this place, the more we can feel connected to our partners and more motivated to prioritise our relationship with them,  having connection time together and bringing more love, fun and play to each other. 

How the Principles of Aware Parenting Support Better Relations with our Partners:

  • Meeting our needs for physical closeness and loving touch
  • Accepting big feelings from everyone in the family and listening non-judgementally
  • Trusting our partners to learn more in their own time and their own way
  • Offering encouragement but not criticism or praise
  • Spending special quality time together
  • Having reasonable boundaries and offering loving limits
  • Taking care of ourselves and being honest about our own needs and feelings. Not sacrificing ourselves to the point of becoming resentful
  • Striving to be aware of the ways in which our own childhood pain interferes with our ability to be good parents, and making conscious efforts to avoid passing on our own hurts to our children

Cultivating Trust with Aware Parenting: 

Aware Parenting shows us that babies and children have innate wisdom and we learn to trust that wisdom. This process is often challenging for adults, as we have been conditioned to think that humans are not trustworthy. However, the more we understand that children have such deep wisdom and  intuitively know how to heal from daily stress and small and large trauma, the more we can offer that understanding to ourselves and our partners too. 

This supports us to allowing our partners to move in their own way, to be on their own journey in parenthood, to have their own strengths in parenting, even if it looks different to what we would love it to. We can slowly learn to trust their process, and see them showing up and offering our children different things to us and accepting that. 

We can play to our strengths - some partners are good at listening and some are better at play. When we start to notice this, we can appreciate our partner/coparent for what they do do well. We can keep modelling aspects of aware parenting and trust that they are growing and learning too. 

We can also learn that when there are challenging times in the family, it's ok because we can offer rewind and repair with our children and with our partners too. And when we offer this to our children, we are modelling this to our partners too.

As always with Aware Parenting, the more listening and support we are receiving, the easier it is to come back to trust, to get clear about what we truly want from our partners and what we are also not willing for from them towards us and towards our children. 

Supporting our Children at Times of Family Conflict and Disconnection:

When there is conflict in our families, Aware Parenting gives us very effective tools to minimise the impact on our children. We can return to the list of 3 things that are underneath all behaviour to support our children at challenging times:

  1. Thoughts/beliefs: we can ensure we are having conversations with our children, giving them age-appropriate information about what is going on. We can reassure them that it is not their fault and that we still love them, and that we will reach out for support to help us come back to balance and connection. We might empower them with a safe word that they can use when they see we are getting activated to remind us to pause and step away when our behaviour isn't connected or aligned with Aware Parenting. 
  1. Needs: We can ensure our children's needs are being met, particularly at times of conflict, particularly needs for connection, autonomy, choice and agency. For example, we can navigate drop offs and recollection after times of separation from our child, by offering extra connection and we can give them lots of opportunities to make choices and decide things for themselves. 
  1. Feelings: We can support our children with their often daily big feelings with loving listening and attachment play. This includes all 9 forms of attachment play to support our children to feel extra emotional safety at times of conflict as well as the opportunity to heal through laughter and to play out the stresses they are feeling. It’s common at times of conflict for kids to have lots of big feelings so any time you can offer loving listening and loving limits, it will be so supportive for the children. 

How to Reduce Conflict with our Partner/Co-Parent:

  • Conversations with partner - outside of the conflict, we can say "I noticed when Sophie was crying something came up for you. Do you want to share what was going on? What did you need? How could I help support you in that moment? What could we have done instead of shouting?". Taking time together to reflect on how things are going and what we can do differently can bring lots of clarity.  
  • Making time however you can to have connection time with your partner/co-parent, to have fun and play together and to have conversations to share honestly about what you need from them. We often expect our partners to know what we need from them, but being clear and asking directly, makes it much more likely that they will be able to respond to us in a way we find helpful. Similarly, asking "What do you need from me?" is a useful question. 
  • Family meetings are a core strategy in Aware Parenting and provide an opportunity for everyone in the family to raise things they want to be different, as well as what they are valuing and enjoying in the family. 
  • Leaning new ways to communicate that are respectful and clear, such as using Non-Violent Communication, developed by Marshall Rosenberg. This 4 part process allow us to express how we feel, what we need and make requests in a peaceful, empathic way. It supports respectful and heartfelt communication in families and shows us how to communicate without blaming, judging or criticising.
  • Taking steps to ensure both parents are getting some time to take care of themselves in ways that are deeply restorative and support us to balance our nervous systems. This means our cups won't be so empty and we will be less reactive and activated.
  • Learning to offer the language of compassion to our partner/co-parent creates a stronger connection and better relationship.

7 Things that Get in the Way of Connection:

  1. Blaming the other person.  Instead can you focus on what you are feeling and needing. 
  2. "Shoulding".  Instead can you bring some curiosity about their behaviour and what you feel and need
  3. Criticising.  Instead can you focus on communicating using "I" messages.
  4. Telling them what they are thinking or feeling. Instead, can you come back to observations and using  "I" statements.
  5. Timing. Can you ask yourself "Is this the right time to talk about this". Can you ask your partner/co-parent "Is now a good time to have this conversation"? 
  6. Misunderstandings. Can you check that they have understood what you have said. And checking with them that what you have understood what they meant to say.
  7. Judging using words like "you always" or "you never". Instead can make observations and requests  "I feel..... coz I need. Are you willing to?"

Parenting together in partnership requires us to be getting lots of listening for ourselves. We cannot be bringing the core aspects and principles of Aware Parenting to our relationship with the other parent of our children, unless we are getting support and listening for us. If you would like more support to navigate your relationship with the other parent of your children and to bring the principles and theory of the Aware Parenting framework to your relationships, my new Aware Partnering in Parenthood Course is now available. This course looks at how we can use the core components of compassion and connection that lie under all of the Aware Parenting approach, to shape our relationships and cultivate close and respectful connections with the other parent of our children and model healthy and thriving relationships to our children. The link to learn more is

Your parenting coach and mentor

About Joss Goulden

I am a trauma-informed Parenting Coach and a Level 2 Aware Parenting instructor, certified with the Aware Parenting Institute. I have been practising Aware Parenting for 17 years and am the mother of 2 children, aged 19 and 17.

I am also passionate about Homeschooling and Natural Learning. I have homeschooled my 2 children and I have been supporting families with Homeschooling and Natural Learning for many years.

Aware Parenting with Joss

I am so passionate about sharing this beautiful approach with parents. I believe that Aware Parenting is THE solution for so many of the challenges facing the world. - Joss Goulden, Aware Parenting Instructor
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