When we blend families in this generation, there is an expectation of one parent to accept the other parent’s children and vice-versa. I don’t think that’s wrong in any way, but I believe we need to look deeper than a level of acceptance. There needs to be a mutual respect and preferably a bond between a child and the other parent. As a single father, I know how important it is to my daughter to feel that she is not being replaced by “another woman.” It’s also just as important for her to have a relationship with this woman, who is so important that I’m going to bring her around or possibly marry her.
Co-parenting has so many layers, sometimes it’s difficult to understand the depth of what is going on. You can be a new step-parent, you can be in a situation where both parties are bringing children to new relationships and of course we have all heard the horror stories about “baby-mama or baby-daddy” drama. None of these situations are easy. However, all of these situations are manageable.
Peeling back the layers in these situations can bring a lot of clarity and understanding. The biggest failure I have seen in relationships with layers of parenting is a failure to communicate. We can eliminate so much drama in our lives and more importantly in the lives of our children when we are on the same page.
Have a united front.
Speaking from experience, when my daughter’s mom got married, I took the time to get to know her husband. We never had issues about my daughter. As a matter of fact, we would go to each other to address her needs and after years of growing and building some wisdom on how to deal with my daughter, we OFTEN dealt with her on a completely united front. Children are intelligent and can manipulate situations, especially when they know the parents are not on the same page. We eliminated that option. When my daughter was dealing with a certain issue where we all had discussed it and made a decision, there was no playing family against family or Dad against Step-Dad.
Leave injured feelings out of the equation.
When we have these layers of blended families, we have to take extra steps to parent our children. Again, nothing is easy about this. Emotions are often still running high, new step-parents are put in situations where they don’t understand the dynamic of the previous relationship and often the non-custodial parent feels threatened when we don’t communicate. Co-parenting on many layers can and will work if we will communicate. The toughest part can be leaving the injured feelings out of the equation. If we can deal with those feelings, we can work together to parent children amicably. Also, the step-parent can offer an unbiased opinion in some cases that the parents can’t see. I believe my daughter having a step-father in her life was a blessing in many ways.
Communication is important in co-parenting relationships. In many ways, it’s more important how you communicate than what you say. You have to communicate from a place of partnership and respect for each other. The best interests of the child should always come first. We often hear people say this, but if you listen to the remainder of their story, that’s not what is happening. “Best interests” are a subjective standard set by the parents. Some parents may think it is fine for their daughter to date at 14, while others think 17 is the right age. They key is for EVERYONE in the co-parenting situation to get on the same page and then adhere to the same agenda. One parent is not going to get exactly what they want all of the time, but parenting decisions are not personal attacks. Someone is going to get what they want, someone won’t or there will be some compromise. This should be a conversation with a resolution between the parents. The parents have to work together to get past their differences to come up with expectations of their children and each other to work together.
The bottom line is all parties involved must think clearly in a blended family scenario. There are all kinds of frustrations and past experiences to deviate from focusing on the child. Clarity, understanding and wisdom make all of the layers of co-parenting more respectable and tolerable over the years. Most importantly, it helps to raise healthy, well-adjusted, young adults.
BMWK – how do you get beyond the “stuff” so that you are able to co-parent?