Co-Parenting Collisions

I was talking with a stepmom recently who described a frustrating scene with her husband’s ex-wife. She was caught in the middle trying to help with the kids and collided with the ex-wife’s irresponsibility.

The end result was an unnecessary disruption in everyone’s schedule. Unfortunately, the scene she described is more common than we’d like to admit in stepfamilies.

So, how do we deal with co-parenting collisions? Over the next few posts, I would like to offer some suggestions. I would also love to hear from you on how you make co-parenting work.

My husband and I have had far too many co-parenting collisions with either his ex-spouse or mine. Some of them could have been prevented. Some of them could not.

But one thing I learned early on was to keep the kids out of the middle. If we treat our kids like a rope in a tug of war game, we fail. If we try to negotiate the visitation schedule with our children instead of our ex-spouse, we lose. It’s okay to ask how our kids feel about the schedule or what their preferences are, but negotiating and decision-making regarding the schedule should be handled by 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 is hurtful.

Co-parenting works best when we keep the interests of our children at the center of our parenting. If we disagree with our ex-spouse over parenting issues, we need to discuss it in private. If it is difficult to have civil conversations with our ex, we might need to use the phone or e-mail instead of face-to-face interaction.

Co-parenting can be an ongoing struggle, particularly when dealing with a difficult or unhealthy ex-spouse. I will tackle that challenge in my next post.

What suggestions do you have on co-parenting?

4 Responses to “Co-Parenting Collisions”

  1. 1 Sue May 14, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    When my husband's ex moved out fourteen years ago, her idea of co-parenting was that she would still make the rules for my husband's household even though she was no longer a part of it. (She is one of those "my way or the highway" types.) When I came into the picture and we tried to make decisions together, she opted out and let us make all the decisions. That actually worked for us because the kids lived with us, and she was busy living her own life.She has since re-entered the picture (flits in and out when it suits her actually) and does things to undermine us from time to time, but if it's not a big deal, we ignore it. For example, she got a real job and finally has some money, so without asking us, she bought the kids cell phones and paid for them to go on a school trip that we wouldn't help with because they made no effort to do any fund raising.If it is a big deal, however, we make it clear to the kids, without badmouthing her, that while they are living in our house, they will abide by our rules. Fortunately, we haven't had to deal with any serious life issues, but I would hope that if/when we do, she will act like a grown-up. I'm not holding my breath.

  2. 2 Step Parenting with Grace May 16, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    It's very frustrating to have the other parent undermine what you're trying to do in your home. We've had that happen also. We talk to our kids about our rules and ask that they please abide by them at the other home. It doesn't always work but at least the kids know the right thing they should be doing – even in the other home.

  3. 3 Ann June 24, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    I would love suggestions on how my husband can handle his ex-wife when she purposely causes problems and disagreements. She is doing this in an effort to take away his joint legal custody. She is trying to paint the picture of the two of them can’t communicate so therefore my husband should lose his joint legal custody. It’s completely her causing problems trying to make it look like it’s not working when really it’s just her causing problems. Very frustrating and praying the judge sees it for what it really is. But who’s to say he won’t just say, “Fine you two can’t get along then she has full legal custody.”

    • 4 Step Parenting with Grace June 24, 2012 at 10:46 pm

      I know how frustrating that must be for you. But I don’t think a judge will take away joint custody from your husband even if his ex-wife tries to prove they can’t get along. Without talking with you further and understanding the specifics of what his ex is doing, I can’t give much suggestion but I will advise that your husband begin documenting exactly what his ex is doing and how it affects the relationship. If it does come up with a judge, he has evidence of her behavior over a period of time that could be critical for his case.
      If you want further help with one-on-one coaching, you can find out the details of what I offer here:
      I would be happy to help you.

      I pray your situation gets better and his ex-wife becomes more agreeable. I know first hand how stressful it can be to deal with an ex who is difficult. God bless you and your family.

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