You’ve said good-bye to your ex, and have embarked on an exciting life with your new spouse and a blended family. But- your ex is still in your life. You continue to maintain contact with him or her because it is in the best interest of the children. Successful co-parenting requires some extra effort, but is very important for your kids.
Keep it Focused on the Kids
Communication should be limited to conversations about the kids. It’s no longer necessary to share day-to-day events with your ex, vent about your day, or talk about anything not related to your kids. Your relationship with you ex is now based solely on the kids.
Keep it Sane
Don’t take your ex-spouse’s emotions personally. Sometimes your ex will express inappropriate or exaggerated feelings. An example may be that you can’t show up for your son’s softball game, and this results in a 10-minute yelling, screaming message left on your answering machine. Just step away from the emotions, and realize that she is expressing her feelings that you are not attending the event, and believes your son will be disappointed. These feelings are O.K.- but not the yelling and screaming. Don’t respond to these exaggerated emotions- just let it go.
Keep it Organized
Prepare a visitation calendar in advance. Follow the guidelines set by your separation agreement and schedule special events as far in advance as possible. Kids like to know where they are going to be. It’s helpful to give each child a pocket calendar so they can keep up with their visits to mom and dad. Blended families can get complicated, so it’s helpful to keep all dates written down.
Keep it Fair
Remember that you are doing what’s best for the kids by arranging for them to spend time with both mom and dad. Don’t cheat your ex out of visitation time, nor should you opt-out of your assigned time. Don’t speak negatively about their new step parents or step family.
Remember to alternate the holidays each year. Reassure your kids that Christmas on the 26th, or their birthday on the following Saturday, is still a special event. Make it fun to switch the days, and still enjoy the holidays together.
Keep it Flexible
Things happen, special events arrive at the last minute. Be flexible if your ex wants to change the visitation schedule. If you notice that this happens frequently, remind him that you need at least a month’s notice to properly rearrange your schedule. With a month’s notice, you will be happy to make the changes. When emergencies or special events pop up, both mom and dad will need to “flex” their schedules to accommodate.
Conclusion: Keep it Focused on the Kids
Do what’s best for your kids. Talk with them, ask them about their upcoming events and encourage them to keep you informed so that you can stay an active part of their lives.
Shirley Cress Dudley is a licensed professional counselor with a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Counseling, and a master’s degree in Education. She has a passion for helping blended families grow strong and be successful. Visit our website for more help with your blended family issues.
Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is a relationship seminar facilitator and author of the ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids … about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! For free articles, her blog, coaching, valuable resources on child-centered divorce or to subscribe to her free ezine, go to: www.childcentereddivorce.com.