Co-Parenting When One of You Finds a new Partner
A parental split or divorce is an unfortunate reality for many children these days and, sadly, the kids are the ones who suffer the trauma of having to split their lives between two places. Although it does get inevitably easier for the children involved over time, parents should absolutely do all they can to minimize the bumps and stumbles along the way. Obviously, in the early stages of a fresh split, the children are quite vulnerable and perhaps a little resistant to the changes that are beyond their comprehension and control.
But the real test comes into to play when both parent move on and decide to settle down with someone. How will the kids take it? How do you make it work? In the name of pain management within a blended family, it would be best for all adults involved to make the children’s mental, emotional and physical well-being a priority and form a method of communication that will accommodate the absolute and necessary security every kid needs. All actions should confirm the notion everything is going to be alright. We spoke to wellness coach Mike Conner, who has specialized in behavioral change for almost 30 years, to get an idea of a healthy mindset to maintain for any parent experiencing the trying times of a recent blending of families.
You Are Not the Mom or Dad
If you’re joining a family or are joining your family to another, remember, you are not the mother or father of your new spouse’s children. You’re there to support all the rules and regulations that were set in place before the split and blending of two families. Conner explains, “This is where a lot of people make the worst mistakes! You cannot overstep your boundaries as a stepparent. You need to make it clear that you’re there for the kids as a friend and are the husband or wife of the biological parent. Unless it’s a situation to where a parent is deceased or completely absent, there is no need to try and take the place of a mother or father.”
Either before or just after a new commitment is made concrete, there should be a meeting of the minds. All involved adults only and then a meeting of the entire family as it will be. The biological parents should express to the children their roles will not change and they are still working together as a team with the new stepparents. “The parents should let the children know that the stepparents are going to enforce the rules that they’ve already set in place,” Conner says. “The discipline and punishments the stepparents enforce aren’t their own; they’re Mom and Dad’s. They also need to stress to them that they’re not trying to replace a parent but they’ll be there when to take them to practice or games, to help with homework and always available should they need an ear.”
Pay Attention and Listen
As a parent, you have to be aware of the children’s state at all times, so you have to ask questions. Most families, blended and otherwise, get to a point where they’re on auto pilot in terms of daily tasks and duties and it becomes easy to miss the signs of a child that needs to vent and be heard. Conner stresses these points, “as a parent, you must listen to the words your children use to express themselves. Don’t talk for them, don’t interrupt them and allow them to find the words they need to articulate themselves without rushing them. The need to be heard! And remember to exclude all judgments and criticism when they are telling you their feelings because they’re valid regardless of your personal opinions and theories. They’ll grow to trust you more if you acknowledge their thoughts, ideas and feelings, and you want them to be able to trust you with them.”
This is quite a challenge to endure and master for all parties involved but with a healthy attitude and positive mindset, the hiccups along the way will serve as opportunities to better the working relationship within the parental structure and bring you closer to the children involved during times of change and transition.