When I was growing up my favorite show on television was the Brady Bunch. “There’s a story…” I can still sing the song and hear the tune in my head. I never stopped to wonder where the ex’s were in this blended family. It clearly did not portray the reality of blending 2 families because the ex’s were not around and the children did not have 2 homes that they went back and forth to.
With this in mind I have made a list of parenting tips that seem to be helpful. When a child lives in two separate homes there needs to be flexibility and a willingness to put aside your adult agenda and work to ensure what is best for your child. When you chose to have your child you, in effect chose to be bound together for the rest of your lives. Maybe your marriage or relationship failed, but don’t fail your child. These tips can be helpful to parents and serve as a gentle reminder to self care and child care.
It is important for the child to hear the voice of the parent each night. So, if your child is with you, simply pick up the phone and dial the number to the other parent so they can talk together. If the child is young, help them remember 2 things that happened that day to tell their parent. When a child is older a cell phone can be used to go back and forth so the child can feel free to call to check in with the other parent.
It is important for the adult parents to communicate. Issues such as discipline, moral development, social behaviors, manners, dating and appropriate demonstrations of love are the real topics that are of concern in rearing a child. Parenting challenges need to be discussed together so the child is not dividing you. These topics need to be discussed out of the home away from the ears of the children.
Sometimes it is easy to overlook that even a small child can feel uncomfortable with touch and we can disregard their pleas to stop. It is imperative that when a child says stop, stop! For example, if someone is tickling a child it can be carried too far where it becomes painful. If someone is doing something that grosses a child out or feels uncomfortable and the child says “please stop”, or “don’t”, STOP! If this is left unchecked then the child doesn’t feel that he/she has power to protect themselves and worse is that he/she can not rely on adults to protect them.
Each child needs to take something they value and that gives them comfort while at the other parent’s home. They need a special place like a shoe box that they can put private and personal stuff in. Also, a journal that goes back and forth to each parents home is helpful. When the child is young the parent can write each day what the child has done (complete with firsts). When the child begins to write they can journal about their day.
Spend special time with your child each day. It builds trust, demonstrates love and caring. When your child needs to tell you something they will know that you are the “safe” person to talk to.
It is my opinion that the biological parents need to do the discipline. If the stepparent is alone with the child and there needs to be some sort of discipline, I find that a time-out works well. In placing a child in time-out it is a consistent and specific place pre-determined by the adults. The time limit is 1 minute for each birthday. For instance if your child is 4 years old, 4 minutes is effective. When the biological parent comes back into the home, quietly let them know why and how discipline was administered.
It does not serve you or your child to be denigrating your ex at all. This just reinforces the anger you feel toward your ex and the children take cues from you. I have seen where there is open discussion of the ex’s faults and shortcomings or namecalling. Years later the child discovers that the parent has tainted their views of their other parent and this will backfire on you as they become angry at your behavior. This may result in a decision to not be affiliated with you at all. So, in reality this serves no purpose at all. Just remember your ex was good enough to produce your child at on time, and you would not have your precious child if it were not for that relationship.
Remember that all of you love your child and want what is best for him/her. He/she did not choose to divorce, however, your behavior to each other can alleviate the tension he/she feels.