How to Find Co-Parenting Success in Your Stepfamily

I’m leading a workshop at our Stepmom Retreat this week-end on Parenting Between Two Homes. I found some great information in Tammy Daughtry’s book, Co-Parenting Works, on how to identify your co-parenting style and find success as you co-parent.

Daughtry outlines three models of co-parenting that come from Dr. Hetherington’s book, For Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered. Try to determine where you fit and where you’d like to fit:

     “Conflicted co-parenting is when former spouses make nasty comments about each other, seek to undermine each other’s relationship with the child, and fight openly in front of the child. Aside from being damaging, constant put-downs of the other parent may backfire, producing resentment and a spirited defense of the criticized parent by the child. One ten-year-old said, “When she goes into her usual routine about what a loser my dad is, I just hate her. I can’t stand it. Last night I yelled at her to stop and threw my dinner plate on the floor and locked myself in my room. She tried to make up but started with, ‘But you know your dad’s really irresponsible.’ I cried all night.”

     Cooperative co-parenting arrangements are where parents put the well-being of their children first and it is often difficult to attain. These parents talk over the children’s problems, coordinate household rules and child-rearing practices, and adapt their schedule to fit their children’s needs. Two decades later, the couples who cooperated were glad they did.

     Parallel co-parenting is a mixed blessing. It is the most common form of co-parenting (according to Dr. Hetherington) and is the easiest to implement. These parents simply ignore each other. They do not interfere with each other’s parenting or make any coordinated parenting strategies. They usually send communication through their children. The lack of parenting communication opens the door to problems and as children get older monitoring can be difficult. Children can also manipulate or play one parent against the other since they are the messenger.”

It’s not hard to recognize that the healthiest way to co-parent would be the cooperative arrangement, although it’s also the hardest. Perhaps that isn’t a possibility with your co-parent and you must resort to parallel co-parenting. But please, don’t stoop to conflicted co-parenting. Your children and stepchildren deserve better than that.

Time often heals raw emotions that follow divorce. Don’t stop seeking a cooperative relationship with your ex or your partner’s ex. It might not be possible today but it might be possible next year. Someone must take the road of humility and seek to make wrongs right. Will that be you? Your children and stepchildren will thank you for it.

What style of co-parenting do you engage in? Can you give tips on how you find success in co-parenting?

To hear the complete workshop on Parenting Between Two Homes and other workshops such as, “Successful Stepping: Is This Normal?” “The Ex-Wife-in-Law,” and more, join us this week-end at our Stepmom Retreat in Belleville, IL. It’s a great way to connect with other stepmoms walking a similar path and find hope, help, and healing. I’d love to meet you there! Details here: www.SisterhoodofStepmoms.com

Pic David Castillo Dominici

 

 

Don’t Let Strained Co-Parenting Steal Your Holiday Joy

I listened as the teen-age girl negotiated the schedule with her dad. It was complicated and she was stressed. I knew she was doing the work her mother should have done; instead she had been thrust in the middle.

blog

Co-parenting often creates tension and additional stress. During the holidays, it’s even harder as we negotiate schedules during an already busy season. It requires intentional effort on our part, including sacrifices and tongue-taming, to make it work. But it’s our responsibility, not our children’s, to negotiate the details.

Co-parenting doesn’t mean we try to control what’s happening in the other parent’s home. After divorce, we relinquish control of how our children are parented when they’re not in our possession. We may not like the rules or lack of rules in their other home, but we can’t control that.

The biggest challenge of co-parenting — learning how to be amicable in a relationship with someone you couldn’t get along with in marriage — is the link to success when parenting children after divorce.  And when disagreements arise, it’s important to keep them out of range of children’s ears. Adult issues need to be confined to adults.

Successful co-parenting strategies include setting boundaries regarding how you will be treated. If you’re dealing with a hostile ex-spouse, you may need to communicate via text or e-mail. Love and respect yourself enough to avoid vulnerable situations that could lead to emotional abuse.

Strained co-parenting gives us an opportunity to practice the gifts of the Spirit as defined in Galatians 5:22-23: “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” I know it’s not easy but as our children watch us model kindness and goodness or patience and self-control in the midst of rude or unkind behavior, they learn the value of asserting these qualities in their own lives. And we gain the satisfaction of knowing we did the right thing, even when it wasn’t easy.

Drama, strained co-parenting, and stepfamily holidays too often co-mingle. But you don’t have to let it steal your holiday joy. Take every opportunity to conquer it with a positive perspective, peaceful interactions and determined effort to work through the challenges.

How do you handle co-parenting challenges? I would love to hear your tips.

For more holiday tips, follow my blog and  Heather Hetchler’s blog at CafeSmom  as we share tips from our holiday e-book, Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace, every Mon, Wed and Friday. Our e-book is a great tool to help you and all stepparents find peace during the holidays and beyond. It’s packed with proven tools and tips, personal stories and a list of recipes and new holiday traditions you can create with your stepfamily.  Unwrapping The Gift of Stepfamily Peace: A Stepparent's Guide to Success

Pic by Keerati

 

What is Your Role as a Stepparent?

When we moved to Louisiana a year and a half ago, my two biological daughters stayed behind in Conway, AR. They both had summer jobs and wanted to stay close to their friends the rest of the summer. At 18 and 21 years old, I knew they could manage on their own but needed a temporary living place before they moved  into college housing in the Fall.

Moving with Grace

My next-door neighbor, Sara, offered to let the girls stay at her house. She and her husband have four grown children and extra bedrooms. It was a perfect arrangement to get us through a transitional period.

When we returned to Conway to help my daughter Jamie move into her college apartment, I observed the relationship between her and my neighbor. It reminded me of a stepparenting relationship in the early years.

Sara knew her role as an additional parent to the girls. She didn’t try to overstep or undermine my relationship in any way. But she did offer a listening ear and everyday support when the girls needed it.

Late in the summer the girls’ dad came for an out-of-state visit. Because their dad is an alcoholic, his behavior is unpredictable and their relationship with him is tenuous. Sara spent several hours talking to the girls about their feelings and struggles with their dad. She offered an unbiased opinion to the situation  as a third-party observer. The girls needed a maternal figure to talk to and since I wasn’t there, they confided in Sara.

I believe that is how our stepparenting role should play out. We are to provide everyday support and a listening ear for our stepchildren when they need it. We are to be a cheerleader for their every effort in sports, music, school, drama, or whatever. We are to love and care for them as if they are our own. But we are not to undermine or compete with their biological parent. We are not to try to replace their biological parent. We are an additional parent.  

Our stepparenting role may change as years pass. When my stepchildren lost their mother to cancer eight years ago, I became their primary maternal figure. My husband has stepped into the primary parenting role with my girls because of their dad’s instability. But for many years, my husband and I both worked at functioning as an additional parent to our stepchildren.

As we drove away from our neighbor’s house to return to our home in Louisiana, Sara was on the front porch with her arm around my youngest daughter, Jodi, who stayed there another week before moving into the dorm. It gave me a warm feeling to know that, although I couldn’t be there every day because of our move, my daughter was loved and cared for by an additional parent.

What role do you play as a stepparent? Is it a healthy role that benefits your stepchildren?

How to Cope with a Difficult Ex-Spouse

I’m addressing a question today I received from a reader. How do you cope as a stepmom when you’re dealing with a biological mom who is belittling to you and doesn’t want you in her children’s lives?

The stepmom role becomes harder when the bio mom makes every effort to exclude you from her children’s lives. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon. At the root of this issue lies the fear that the bio mom feels the children are going to bond with the you – the stepmom, and form a deeper relationship with you than they have with her.

It’s an unfounded fear because children almost always have a stronger relationship with their biological parents than they have with a stepparent. However, she’s reacting out of her own fear and communicating to her children that she wants their loyalty. Women are territorial when it comes to their children. If you have children of your own, you understand these feelings, but it doesn’t give the bio mom the right to act belittling or antagonistic  toward the stepmom.

To help alleviate the threat the bio mom is sensing, the stepmom needs to send a message that she has no intention of interfering with the relationship between the bio mom and her children and isn’t trying to replace her in any way. In their book, The Smart Stepmom, Laura Petherbridge and Ron Deal give an example of how to communicate this message which they call “The No-Threat Message.” They suggest doing it in person or via e-mail if the relationship is already strained.

“Dear Meghan, since we are both involved with your kids, I wanted to take a minute to communicate with you. I want to share that I totally understand and respect that you are the only mother of these children. I’m not their mom, and I will never try to take your place. They are your children. I am honored to be an added parent figure in their lives. I view my role as one of support to their father, and my desire is to be a blessing to them. I promise to speak well of you and work together for their benefit. I desire to make their lives easier, not more difficult. Please know that I pray for the entire family. If there’s anything I can do to help the situation or if you have any questions, feel free to contact me.”

Sending the no-threat message doesn’t guarantee the bio mom will accept your position in her children’s lives but it offers her some perspective on how you feel about your role. She is more likely to allow a relationship between you and her children if she doesn’t feel threatened by your behavior and sees you live out the No-threat message.

Unfortunately, some bio moms are mean-spirited and vindictive. In this case, there’s not a lot the stepmom can do to have an amicable relationship. For further insight, I suggest reading the chapter from The Smart Stepmom, “Meet Your Ex-Wife-in-Law: Friend or Foe.” It gives additional scenarios of how to cope with a difficult ex-spouse.

What suggestions would you give this reader? I’d love to hear them.

Picture by Grant Cochrane

Related Posts:

Co-Parenting with a Difficult Ex-Spouse

Creating Healthy Boundaries with Your Ex-Spouse

Recognizing the Need for Boundaries

How to Co-Parent Successfully

Taken from our e-book, “Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace,” I want to share some thoughts on  how to make co-parenting work.

Our son, Nathan, hangs with a friend whose parents are divorced. Nathan came back from a birthday party, talking about meeting his friend’s dad for the first time. As the conversation ensued, I learned both parents were at their son’s party and casually spoke with one another throughout the evening. I remember thinking to myself, what a blessing they’ve given their son.

Not all co-parenting situations can be as amicable, but the goal of co-parenting is to put aside the differences that dissolved your marriage and do your part to have a cooperative relationship.

Stepfamily living brings stress and tension, which easily carries over into the co-parenting relationship. Intentional effort is required to get along, including sacrifices and tongue-taming. If disagreements arise, it’s important to keep them from children’s ears. Adult issues need to be confined to the adults.

Co-parenting doesn’t mean we try to control what is happening in the other parent’s home. When we divorced our spouse, we relinquished control of how our children will be parented in their home. But the biggest challenge of co-parenting, learning how to be amicable in a relationship with someone you couldn’t get along with in marriage, is the link to success when parenting children after divorce.

Successful co-parenting strategies include setting boundaries about how you will be treated. If you’re dealing with a hostile ex-spouse, it often works best to communicate via text or e-mail. Don’t put yourself in a vulnerable situation that could lead to emotional abuse.

Strained co-parenting gives you an opportunity to practice displaying the gifts of the Spirit as defined in Galatians 5:22, 23: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” I know it’s not easy but as our children watch us model kindness and goodness or patience and self-control in the midst of rude or unkind behavior, they learn the value of asserting those qualities in their own lives. And we gain the satisfaction of knowing we took the high road, even when it wasn’t easy.

Drama and stepfamily living too often co-mingle, but you don’t have to let the onslaught of drama ruin your journey. Take every opportunity to conquer it with a positive perspective, peaceful interactions and determined effort to work through the challenges.

What tips can you add to help co-parent successfully?

Related Posts:

Co-Parenting With a Difficult Ex-Spouse

Co-Parenting Collisions

How To Co-Parent Successfully with Your Ex-Spouse

Creating Healthy Boundaries with your Ex-Spouse

In my post last week on boundaries, I said I would post about creating healthy boundaries with your ex-spouse. So I’m re-posting from a previous blog post that gives some examples of what healthy boundaries look like. These boundaries may not be applicable for you if the relationship with your ex is amicable. But for those dealing with a difficult ex-spouse, I hope these are helpful. Many of them apply to my own personal situation. (I’m using “he” for simplicity in each example).

1. Discuss only issues relating to the children with your ex-spouse. If he diverts the conversation to past events or other personal matters, steer it back toward matters of the children.

2. Use e-mail and texting if face to face discussions or personal phone calls are confrontational. Do not argue in front of the children.

3. Keep your meeting places public when possible. If you’re swapping children from your home and expect conflict, don’t allow your ex-spouse to come into your home.

4. Make sure your ex-spouse is clear on your expectations. Put it in writing and provide support for what you’re asking, if needed. For example, when my stepson was younger, he suffered terribly with allergies. I took him for allergy testing and it was determined he was allergic to cigarette smoke but we knew my husband’s ex-wife and her husband smoked around him constantly. We provided a prescription note from the doctor that requested there be no smoking around my stepson.

5. Don’t allow verbal abuse of any kind – toward you or the children. If the conversation gets emotionally charged, tell your ex-spouse you will hang up unless the matter can be discussed calmly.

6. Separate issues of child support and visitation. If your ex-spouse is late or delinquent on child support, don’t deny visitation. However, follow through with the court process regarding current payments.

7. Learn to recognize manipulative behavior and don’t allow it to influence your relationship with your ex.

Boundaries can be set and then adjusted, as necessary, in your relationship  They give you the freedom to allow healthy interaction without fear of being taken advantange of or manipulated. But it is our responsibility to set boundaries that work for us without alienating our ex spouse in the process.

What boundaries do you set with your ex-spouse? Leave a comment if you’re willing to share your success with others.

Related posts:

Setting Boundaries with an Ex-Spouse

Your Ex Spouse and Boundaries: Part Two

How to Co-Parent Successfully with your Ex