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Kids in 2 Homes: Co-Parenting Do’s and Don’ts

When a divorce occurs, and kids are involved, co-parenting between the two homes can become complicated. Characteristically, the tension triggers between the two homes are: inconsistent visitation schedules, money, household rules, and contradictory parenting styles. Add to the mix, if one home is Christian based, and the other home is not, the foundation and instructions in each home is radically different. If the parent, (and a stepparent) don’t consistently seek God’s wisdom and learn how balance parenting insight, grace and unselfishness it can become a battleground for everyone.

If after a divorce if a parent refuses to change and discover a new way to parent their child who is now living in two vastly different worlds the battle intensifies. If he or she can’t let go of the things no longer under his/her control, and continuously activates a coparenting combat zone the consequences are severe.

The kids are always the casualty.

The children who do the best after a divorce are the ones who have an ongoing, frequent relationship with both parents, even if one parent isn’t the greatest role model. When a child has little to no contact with one parent after the divorce it implants a deep wound of self-loathing.

Creating and communicating the “new normal” in your home is key to helping the child stabilize and avoid confusion.

Co-parenting Do’s:

  • Instill structure and discipline on the things that are a “hill to die on.” For example, no drugs, disrespect or hitting the siblings are good absolutes. Each home must decide what the boundaries will be. Be careful not to label everything as a NO!!

  • Respectfully communicate with the other parent: schedules, school essentials, vacations, medical details, etc. with the other parent. This can be via email or text if verbal communication becomes difficult. There are now numerous apps you can download such as ___ if you need to keep everything “just the facts.”

  • Allow the child to love the other parent and enjoy both homes. As hard as it might be, if a parent truly loves the child he/she will encourage and praise them for time spent with the other parent.

  • Children are fiercely loyal to a biological parent, even if the parent is unstable, caustic, or abusive. If the child views one parent as a victim, they will protect him/her at all costs.

  • Let your integrity and character lead the way with legal matters such as court orders and divorce agreements. When you make a commitment, keep it.

  • Many children of divorce require professional counseling. Have resources budgeted for professional help if necessary

  • Take the high road if it means the child won’t be in a tug of war. This often means sacrifice and suffering, but divorce comes with those burdens.

  • Pray for the former spouse. Avoid the “God change him/her” prayers and instead pray, “God change me. Show me how to lovingly co-parent even when the other parent is hurtful”.

Co-parenting Don’ts

  • Never, absolutely never criticize the other parent. If you have failed, go to the child and apologize. “I’m sorry. I know that’s your mom/dad and you love him/her.”

  • Assume your kids aren’t struggling. Parents have a hard time accepting that the divorce may have caused pain for their kids. Frequently, the child hides the hurt or they are confused about their emotions.

  • Parent out of guilt, shame, or sorrow. Your child needs a parent, not a friend. Attending parenting classes at church if necessary, just know co-parenting is not the same formula as a nuclear family.

  • Set a boundary you can’t implement. You might be against your child having a cell phone, but you can’t stop the other parent from providing it. You can set a boundary in your home such as: “The phone has to be in the charger on kitchen table by 9pm when you go to bed.” This is the type of compromise that is often necessary in co-parenting.

  • Put adult issues on a child’s mind. If you find yourself confiding in, weeping with, or talking to the child as if he/she were an adult, stop now. Although it may cause the parent or stepparent to have a deeper emotional attachment it is placing an adult burden on a undeveloped child’s mind.

  • Thrust the parenting of the kids onto a fiancé, stepparent, or grandparent. The child wants the bond with a biological parent, not a substitute.

  • Give up. Kids of divorce can become rude, disrespectful, and distant. The tendency is to blame the other parent and sometimes that’s true. It’s also possible that without realizing it the atmosphere in your home is doing something that causes the child to feel like an outsider, abandoned, unloved, or lonely. It’s the parent’s job to remain tightly bonded with the child so they feel safe to share what’s wrong.

  • Underestimate God’s ability. God loves this child even more than the parents and stepparents. He wants the child emotionally stable and growing into a healthy adult. Therefore, seek His wisdom and attend stepfamily events to learn and grow.

Coparenting isn’t easy, especially if the other home desires to make it more complicated. But God can and will give any parent and stepparent the wisdom and skills they need to provide a secure, peaceful, consistent, and loving home for the kids. It requires devotion, self-sacrifice, persistence, and prayer.

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