Parenting and staying on the same page with a partner that you're married to (and actually like) can be challenging enough!
Trying to parent and stay on the same page as an EX-PARTNER (who you may not particularly like) somedays it can seem damn near impossible!
Throw in some step-parents and well.... if you're reading this blog. I don't have to explain it to you. You're living it everyday! It's not easy.
But that doesn't mean it can't be done in a healthy & constructive way!
Today I thought I'd share some little tidbits to remember when you're co-parenting with an ex (or your husband's ex).... because well, we can alll use a good reminder here and there!
1. BELIEVE IT OR NOT, YOU'RE ON THE SAME TEAM
Even if it doesn't seem like it.
Even if you're in a high conflict situation, and potentially spending your retirement and children's education fund on lawyers and court fees....
Even if it seems like you cannot agree on ANYTHING
At the end of the day, your job as parents, is to raise these little people into adults that will become independent & successful, kind-hearted human beings
That is the goal. That is the COMMON goal. The goal is your kids!
(So remember, keep your eye on the prize!)
2. ASK YOURSELF, "WHAT DO I WANT MY KIDS TO REMEMBER ABOUT THEIR CHILDHOOD?"
Do you want them to remember the turf war drama, loud phone arguments and that their parents couldn't agree on anything to save their lives... or do you want them to look back on their childhood and say "Yeah it sucked that my parents weren't together, but they really did pull it together for us"
3. WHEN YOUR CHILD EXPRESSES LOVE FOR THE OTHER PARENT, IT DOESN'T MEAN THEY LOVE YOU ANY LESS...
There is more than enough love to go around.
When parents are married, a dad doesn't get upset when his daughter goes through a stage where she prefers her Mom. He doesn't get upset when she says "I love Mommy". He wants her to love her Mommy.... because well, she's her Mommy.
You should want your kids to love and respect their other parent
You should want your kids to feel comfortable expressing this love and respect to you.
This is parenting, not a competition.
4. NO ONE WIN'S PLAYING TIT FOR TAT. TWO WRONGS DON'T MAKE A RIGHT!
In the online KICK-ASS Stepmom Community I often read posts where stepmoms say things like this:
"His ex doesn't let the kids FaceTime us when they are with her, so we aren't letting her FaceTime them when they are with us"
I get it. It's an easy trap to fall into.
She doesn't do it. Why should you have to do it?
It's not fair.
But be the bigger person, and remember who this is all about. It's not about your war with her, it's about the kids and what's best for them.
Don't let how the ex is parents, influence how you parent, ESPECIALLY if his/her decisions aren't child centred. At the end of the day, when the arguments are all said and done, you'll feel much better knowing that you always acted in the best interest of the kids.
Now let me touch on this FaceTime Issue for a quick second.
Is it in their best interest to be able to FaceTime their Mom/Dad when they are with you? In my personal opinion, hell yes!! I don't believe that a child should ever be prevented from speaking to their parent. EVER.
If a kid wants to FaceTime their Mom (or Dad) let them FaceTime their Mom or Dad.
5. MAKE YOUR HOME A SAFE, HAPPY & HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT
You cannot control what happens at the kids other house. You'll drive yourself crazy if try to.
Concentrate on what you DO have control over - which is the environment in your own home!
Model a healthy and loving relationship. Model respect. Let the kids feel comfortable expressing anything they want to express, even if it is their love and excitement about life at their other house. Don't take offence to that. Don't let it hurt your feelings. Again, their love for you has nothing to do with their love for her.
You want them to feel comfortable sharing all aspects of their life with you.
If you build your family on a foundation of love, respect and healthy boundaries - you can't go wrong! (Even though some days it may be hard as hell)
6. KIDS DON'T WANT TO BE INTERROGATED OR QUESTIONED ABOUT THEIR OTHER PARENT
So don't do it.
7. DON'T USE THE KIDS AS MESSENGERS
I cringe when I hear people say "we barely communicate anymore, everything goes through the kids".
Even though its easier on you, it's harder on them! Kids shouldn't be dragged into adults problems such as coordinating schedules and communicating about parenting. If you cannot communicate effectively, come up with a system that works. Whether you use a third party communicator or an online program like Our Family Wizard, don't make the kids responsible for delivering messages back and forth.
Your inability to communicate effectively with your ex, shouldn't be their problem.
Even if they don't tell you, I'm willing to bet that this extra responsibility stresses them out.
7. DON'T MAKE ADULT ISSUES, KID'S ISSUES
Your opinion of your ex (or his ex) is non of your kid's business.
Your kids don't have a "right to know that their Mom is taking their Dad too court..."
They don't have a "right to know the 'truth'"
A kid has the RIGHT TO BE A KID... who is free to love both their parents.
Again, do not put adult problems on them.
Kids should have to worry about what toy they are going to play with that day, or who to invite to their birthday party
NOT what the Thanksgiving Access Schedule should look like or that Dad was late making his child support payment this month.
8. YOU DON'T HAVE TO RESPOND TO EVERY ARGUMENT YOU'RE INVITED TO
Sometimes silence is the best last word.
If you're in a high conflict situation, get clear on what you will and will not respond to.
Keep it child centred.
Decide what role you want to play in each other's lives
Decide what you will and will not communicate about.
Stay true to those boundaries.
Like really true.
9. TRY NOT TO LET RESIDUAL BAGGAGE FROM YOUR MARRIAGE, IMPACT HOW YOU PARENT
There are a lot of emotions involved in co-parenting, specifically residual emotions left over from the marriage that once was.
Recognize that these past emotions and issues sometimes creep into the co-parenting arrangement, ultimately affecting how you co-parent.
Recognizing and coming to terms with this, will help you prevent this baggage from getting in the way...
Do you very best to separate the marriage that once was from your new co-parenting relationship.
I know I sound like a broken record here, but it's all about the kids!