How to co-parent with a work-a-holic

Psychologist Joshua Coleman, PhD explains the best way to approach a workaholic partner about becoming more involved with the family
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How to co-parent with a work-a-holic

So some people are married to a partner, and I see this a lot in the bay area where I live, where their partners are workaholics. Maybe they have a startup company or they're an attorney or they're in some other career where they're basically gone all the time and they want their spouse to be much more involved as a parent. So, in general, you should assume that if your partner is a workaholic he or she may feel like that's their big contribution to the family. They may actually get a lot of self-esteem and meaning from that, so I think if you have that conversation you want to do it in a loving and tender way as possible. You want to ask them about what they think about their working, do they feel like they're working too much, do they think it's impacting the children. In other words, you want to come into the conversation in a kind, loving, interesting way because your partner may get a lot of self-esteem and identity from their work so yo don't want to come into it with a hatchet. But if you're feeling like the children or you are getting neglected as a result, then I think you want to have that conversation with your partner and you want to do it by starting up with what you like or value about that. You might say, "You know, I really like how much income you do bring into the family. It's a huge contribution. I like that you're successful and hard working. I think it's a great value for the children to see in a parent. I am a little bit worried that the kids aren't getting enough time with you. They have been complaining about missing you. Do you think it's starting to impact?" and see if your partner's just willing to take that. "Can we talk about this together? Do you have an ideas about this? Can you see this changing in the near future?" If your partner gets really defensive and can't hear it, that might mean that you need to get into couples therapy to work on that.

Psychologist Joshua Coleman, PhD explains the best way to approach a workaholic partner about becoming more involved with the family


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Joshua Coleman, PhD

Author & Psychologist

Dr. Coleman is a psychologist in private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area and Co-Chair of the Council on Contemporary Families, a non-partisan organization composed of leading sociologists, historians, psychologists and demographers dedicated to providing the press and public with the latest research and best-practice findings about American families. He has lectured at Harvard University and The University of California at Berkeley and blogs on parent-adult child relationships for the U.C. Berkeley publication, Greater Good Magazine, the Huffington Post and Psychology Today.

Dr. Coleman is frequently contacted by the media for opinions and commentary about changes in the American family. He has been a frequent guest on the Today Show, NPR, and The BBC, and has also been featured on Sesame Street, 20/20, Good Morning America, PBS, AARP,  America Online Coaches,  and numerous news programs for FOX, ABC, CNN, and NBC television. His advice appears often in The New York Times, The Times of London, Fortune, Newsweek, The Chicago Tribune, Slate, Psychology Today, U.S. World and News Report, Parenting Magazine, The Baltimore Sun and many others.

He has served on the clinical faculties of The University of California at San Francisco, The Wright Institute Graduate School of Psychology, and the San Francisco Psychotherapy Research Group. He is the author of numerous articles and chapters and has written four books:  When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don't Get Along (HarperCollins) The Marriage Makeover: Finding Happiness in Imperfect Harmony (St. Martin's Press); The Lazy Husband: How to Get Men to Do More Parenting and Housework (St. Martin's Press); and Married with Twins: Life, Love and the Pursuit of Marital Harmony. His books have been translated into Chinese, Croatian, and Korean, and are also available in the U.K., Canada, and Australia. He is formerly a contributing editor to Twins Magazine.

 Dr. Coleman is a sought-after public speaker on topics related to the family. He is also co-editor, along with historian Stephanie Coontz of the yearly online volume, Unconventional Wisdom: News You Can Use, a compendium of noteworthy research on the contemporary family, gender, sexuality, poverty, and work-family issues.  He runs a popular webinar series for estranged parents and a free newsletter for parents, The Coleman Report.

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