relationship

Including the Stepparent

Many separated or divorced parents make the decision to move on with their lives and seek meaningful relationships. When remarrying or deciding to be in a committed relationship, their partners take on a role of a stepparent.

Lotus Therapies|Stepparents|CoParenting|Cumming, GA|Lawrenceville, GA

Being a stepparent can be very overwhelming, challenging, and rewarding. But when a stepparent isn't supported, included on respected they could feel like the odd man out and problems and resentment start to seep into your relationship. Being the odd man out for the stepparent can feel like they are on constant pins and needles with the kids and you as their partner because they are trying to find their place and their voice in your co-parenting situation.

Lotus Therapies|Stepparents|CoParenting|Cumming, GA|Lawrenceville, GA

With the children, their needs, trying to manage the co-parenting relationship, and your own needs, the stepparent and their needs can unnoticeably take a backseat. Here are 3 tips to make sure that the stepparent feels connected and included.

Nurture Your Relationship

Stepparents need the reassurance that the co-parenting situation working for the betterment of the family unit and validation and recognition of their place in their household and in their spouse's life. Make time for each other when you can maintain your connection.Unity within the couple's relationship bridges the emotional gap between the stepparent and stepchildren and positions both adults to lead the family.

Lotus Therapies|Stepparents|CoParenting|Cumming, GA|Lawrenceville, GA

 

Communicate! Then Communicate Some More.

Just as the lines of communication is imperative for co-parents, it is also important for stepparents and their partners. Rather than being silent in their resentment, stepparents should express their need to have their contributions recognized and acknowledged (Grace, Elizabeth, 2017).  Stepparents can find it hard to find their barrings and need to be able to talk with their partners on how they feel, how to address issues that come up with the children, and what their role looks like as a stepparent where everyone is feels validated and their needs are being met. 

 

Just a little Respect.

Respect is a big part of the foundation of any relationship. Just as your relationship took the time to grow and flourish it will take time for the stepparent and child to bond. Respecting the process, having discussions about the new family unit and how it will be managed is key to building a strong foundation. A stepparent will have their own views, values, and beliefs that they will bring to the relationship and those should be respected and acknowledged. But as parents and partners communication about how parenting, discipline, and co-parents should be handled will be ongoing and partners must come to an agreement they are comfortable with implementing in their daily lives. Another important aspect of respect is between the stepparent and the child. Both the child and the stepparent should show each other a level of respect. This is always best displayed rather than verbalized because children do as you do not as you say--usually. If a child feels safe with the stepparent and not pushed into a relationship with them respect comes a little bit easier. Stepparents also must display respect for the children and the other parent (your ex) by being considerate of boundaries, communicating with honesty, and helping to keep the peace.

Although step-parenting can be difficult it can also be rewarding and help to create loving connections. Stepparents should be acknowledged for their roles, heard, included in decisions and planning, and the marriage or romantic relationship should be nurtured to make sure that your relationship and family unit is solid. 

 

References:

Grace, Elizabeth (2017, May 27). Dealing with Feelings of Resentment as a Stepparent. Being a Stepparent. Retrieved from http://www.beingastepparent.co.uk/dealing-with-feelings-resentment-stepparent.html

Deal, Ron (2002). Stepparenting: It Takes Two. Focus on the Family. Retrieved from http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/single-blended-family-parenting/blended-families/stepparenting-it-takes-two

 

5 Important Things to Be A Stable Co-Parent

The reality of being a co-parent can be quite sobering but you can get through it if you focus on these 5 elements: Self-care, Level-Headed Support, Grieve Your Relationship, Make Home a Neutral Space, and Commit to Your Child's Happiness.

Lotus Therapies|Stable Co-parenting|Cumming, GA|Lawrenceville, GA

Self-Care

It is important for parents in a co-parenting relationship to not only nurture their children but to also nurture themselves. Self-care is the maintenance of your physical, mental, and inner self. How you treat yourself will speak to how you will be able to cope with the transition of your co-parenting relationship and life transitions in general.  Terri DiMatteo, LPC  of Open Door Therapy suggests that while it may seem counter-intuitive for divorcing parents to focus on themselves while in the throes of divorce or transitioning during to being a co-parent, in truth it is actually one of the healthiest things a divorcing parent can model for his or her child. By doing so, a parent is ‘saying’ (by example and in lifestyle) that during times of heightened stress and uncertainty it’s especially important to take care of oneself when managing the additional stress.

Level-Headed Support

We all require connections with friends or family to be a support through trials of life. When maneuvering through your co-parenting transition, separation, or divorce you may seek comfort and advice from friends and family. But all advice isn't good advice even from people we love. Sometimes confiding in others can make the situation worse because the people we have chosen to confide in are also emotionally invested in your situation and they can't always be objective. Seek a professional if you are looking to work through emotions, thoughts, and getting a better understanding of how to move forward. 

Grieving Your Relationship

Although you want to make sure that your children are okay and provide them a healthy environment, it is important to grieve what you have lost. Whatever that loss is for you, (the relationship itself, loss of the family unit, loss of finances, your dreams connected to your ex-partner) healthy grieving will help you deal with the emotions related to that loss and adequate support will help you reorganize your life based on your learnings about your relationship, yourself, and your experiences. You will most likely develop new values and perspectives on life, and you will naturally begin to think of new horizons that you may never have thought about before. 

Home: A Neutral Space

Your relationship with your ex can be in a constant state of chaos but you should always commit to having a safe, neutral environment for you and your child. This means being accountable to maintaining that space by:

  • making sure you don't speak ill of the dead (the old relationship that is)
  • not using your child as a confidant
  • encouraging your child to foster a relationship with their parent if they are comfortable doing so
  • respecting the child's relationship and love for their other parent
  • when they go low you go high-refrain from arguments and all-around nastiness especially in front of the child.

Committing to Your Child's Happiness

Committing to you child's happiness is the ultimate goal of your co-parenting experience. Your sacrifices to maintain control of emotions and creating a neutral, safe space for them is what they will remember in the end. Pay attention to your child's ques regarding how they are handling the transition and seek additional support or help if they are having an especially hard time adjusting. Stay the course, because your character and actions DO matter...and because the children are always watching. The time, thoughts, patience, laughter, fun, and love that you share with your child will have the most meaning.

 

 

References:

1. Hart, Julie (2016, February 2). Grieving When Your Relationship Ends: The 3 Important Phases. The Hart Centre. Retrieved from http://thehartcentre.com.au/grieving-when-your-relationship-ends-the-3-important-phases/
2. University of Washington. (n.d). Healthy grieving. Retrieved from https://www.washington.edu/counseling/resources/resources-for-students/healthy-grieving/
3.Philyaw, D.,Thomas, M.D. (2013) Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive in Two Households after Divorce. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.