How to Co-parent in Divorce With a New Partner.
In a divorced family, finding that co-parenting sweet spot with an ex takes time and conscious eﬀort with plenty of emotions and shifting dynamics. The family dynamic will shift once again, when a co-parent brings a new partner into the mix and they become part of the ecosystem.
Introducing Children to a New Partner
If you are introducing someone new to the kids, do not force the interaction. Ensure they have time to digest this new person and concept before they have a face to face meeting. Make the first interaction age appropriate with a start and finish time, and most importantly, approach the situation with a whole lot of patience and empathy for all parties involved.
Be proactive. Ensure that your co-parent is aware of this activity as it displays healthy safe family interactions for the kids, so the kids don’t feel responsible for being the barer of the news, or have them experience the emotions of the other parent’s surprise or potential emotional knee-jerk reaction.
Give the relationship between the new person and the kids time to evolve and grow.
How to Handle Your Ex Moving On With a New Partner
Put your own issues aside. It might be really challenging to see your ex move on with a new person, and that’s ok, just don’t make that your kids, your co-parent or their new partner’s issue. This is no place for jealousy or judgement. If you find yourself being triggered by this new event, get some support to unpack your baggage and work to heal those emotions. It helps the kids continue to feel love, safety and belonging if you are receptive and accepting (even if you don’t like it) of the new person in the family which is ultimately healthy for everyone.
Foster and encourage the new relationship with your kids. It will take time and eﬀort and a whole lotta heart (perhaps many holes in your tongue!) but it’s important to ensure the kids feel the permission to spend time with this person and get to know them. The last thing they need is to feel any guilt associated with liking the person or trying to get to know the person.
Speak about your co-parent’s partner with respect and kindness, always, even if you don’t like them or they have done something that doesn’t jive with you.
Ways to Handle Family Moments with a New Partner
As time goes on, there are going to be family moments, where there are three or even four parents involved.
Ensure there are clear expectations outlined.
Have scheduled check-ins with the parenting team if that’s an option. If not, ensure you check- in with your partner.
As the new partner, let the parents do the parenting. Oﬀer your insight if it is valuable or consulted, or if it is an issue that directly impacts you.
Ensure that the new parent is recognized as a member of the parenting team.
Ensure that the children grow to understand that the new person is a respected member of the family and a respected adult in their lives.
Have family meetings so each person is seen, heard, validated, and understood.
Bonus Parents Can be a Real Bonus in the Family
Sometimes the bonus parent can really help the kids when they need that support from an adult that isn’t a parent. This really comes into play in the teen years.
Showcase to the kids that they can create a unique relationship with this person.
How to Grow a Relationship with Your Step-kids as the New Partner
It’s up to you to try your best to find that sweet spot with the kids. You’re not the parent, but you are a trusted adult and friend. this will help both the biological parents and also the child. This isn’t easy, but it is worth it when you invest the time and energy into this unique relationship.
Bring up issues away from the children. If something happens on the other parent and new partner’s watch that you are concerned about, find a diplomatic way to bring it up with them away from the children. Regular check-ins with the parenting team helps with perspective and ultimately benefit the kids if you’re all on the same page, ensuring that constant, clear, and open communications regarding expectations are maintained.
It really is incredible to have more people loving your kids. Having someone choose to care for your children’s best interest, love them as they are, and want to contribute positively to their upbringing, is the ultimate bonus and can bring so much fulfillment, joy, and life experience to your children. There is no limit on love for a child, and that is most important when raising self-assured, equipped young humans.
As a bonus parent myself, one of my greatest moments was standing with my bonus son’s Mom, waiting for him to come oﬀ the Football field, and he said to his coach “Thanks Coach, I’m gonna go say hi to my Moms!”
It really does take a village.