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.
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.
Pic by Keerati