1- Keep contact to a minimum
One phone call a day is excessive, several text messages a day is extremely excessive. If you have a subject related to the kids- speak briefly and clearly about your expectations. Emails are better than phone calls, if your issue is not an emergency.
2- Do not contact your ex-spouse unless you have a topic related to the children.
You no longer have a relationship with this person, except that he or she is the other parent of your children. Your only relationship is one of co-parenting. Asking for assistance with household repairs, meals, or even just talking about your day- is no longer acceptable.
3- Do not speak negatively about your ex-spouse in front of the children.
It doesn’t make you look better in front of the kids, and it does not help with the co-parenting relationship you have with your ex. Children are confused by negative talk and should not be trapped in the middle of your marital issues.
4- Don’t send messages to your ex-spouse through the kids
Your children have been through some major changes- mom and dad not living together, divorce, and now visitation back and forth between the houses. They do not need to be involved in adult discussions or arguments.
5- Don’t question the kids about their activities when they return from a visit with the other parent.
Children are very suspicious of this and wonder what they are supposed to say. They wonder if it’s O.K. to have fun at Dad’s house. You want your children to have a positive relationship with their Daddy, and want them to feel that they don’t have to “report back” all the activity going on in his house. It’s O.K. to ask them if they had a good time over the weekend, and then smile and say, “great” after their brief response. Move on to another topic, immediately after the question, so that the kids know it’s O.K. to have enjoyed the time, and that you’re not being nosy about their Dad.
6-Work together with your ex to coordinate a visitation schedule for the kids.
Let your ex know if there are any changes to your schedule, as soon as possible. Emergencies will arise (for both parties) but planning ahead allows both parents to care for the kids as best as possible.
7-Don’t sabotage family events at your ex’s house.
You may be considering planning a huge meal to serve to your kids right before dropping them off for Thanksgiving dinner at your ex’s house, or bringing them to their other parent’s house, late, so that they miss an important event scheduled for them. You may think these tactics hurt your ex, but in reality, you are only hurting your own children. Step back, and remember to do what’s best for your kids.
8-Don’t speak negatively about your ex’s new partner
This is the person who will help raise your children. This person is caring for your children when they are not with you.
9-Choose a new partner that loves your kids
Now that you’re a parent, you can’t just marry someone for your own needs, but also someone who will be a great parent to your kids. When you’re ready to remarry, make sure this person is willing to devote time to get to know, love and help you care for your kids.
10-Focus on the Kids
Some of these rules sound pretty tough, but remember to focus on your kids. This isn’t about trying to hurt your spouse or “get even” – your goal should be to do what’s best for your children.
Check out Blended Family Advice ebook for more information on how to blend your step family.
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 and step parent issues.