I watched my son’s friend negotiate an upcoming visitation schedule with his dad at a recent soccer game. I could sense the stress the teen felt as he was thrust in the middle between his parents. I wanted to step in and tell the dad, “Call your ex-wife and work this out. This isn’t your son’s responsibility.”
It might seem easier to ask our kids to handle the communication to avoid the ex. I get it. My husband and I had numerous co-parenting collisions with ex-spouses when our kids were still at home. Some of them could’ve been prevented. Some could not.
But one thing we learned early on (and the one thing to remember!): keep the kids out of the middle.
To co-parent successfully 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.
The biggest challenge may be learning how to be amicable in a relationship with someone you couldn’t get along with when married to them. And while it is hard, I believe it is the link to success when parenting children after divorce.
Co-parenting often creates tension and stress.
We have to remember that when disagreements arise, it’s important to keep them out of range of children’s ears. Adult issues need to be confined to adults.
It’s OK to ask the children how they feel about a particular issue (visitation, event, etc.) but the negotiating and scheduling should be done by the adults.
Stepchildren are unnaturally pulled between two homes with parents they love in both homes. Asking them to make a choice or take sides with one home over another creates hurt.
This is not a game of Tug of War with the children as the rope!
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 (and they are watching!) 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.
Have you been caught in the middle? What steps did you take (or wish you’d taken) to remedy the situation?