THE Amicable Divorce Expert interviews Judy Graybill, Step-Parent Coach, on the best ways to be a step-parent in a second marriage. Second marriages are tough for several reasons, but there are empowering things you can do about it:
- If the biological parents haven’t healed from their divorce, the step-parent inherits the trauma from their marriage. That trauma will play out in the co-parents’ relationship, in the co-parents’ relationship with their children, and will permeate the relationship in the second marriage between the step-parent and biological parent.
- Initially, the step parent should step back from trying to parent their way, and instead follow the parenting style of their partner, to increase likelihood of harmony. As they build an organic relationship with the step-child over time, their influence with the children will grow commensurately.
- The age of the children should be considered when figuring out how to handle the presenting challenges. Kids who are 9 yrs old and older need more time to adjust to their new family. As such, the step parent should take a slow approach to bonding and getting involved.
- If the step-parent and their biological parent spouse have different parenting styles, this becomes friction in their relationship.
- Biological Dad in the 2nd marriage plays a key role in the relationship between the mom and step mom. If he has unrealistic expectations of step mom, she’ll find herself accidentally stepping on mom’s toes.
- Boundaries need to be established between the biological parent and ex-spouse, in order to minimize conflict between households, as well as with the current spouse (the step parent).
- Step-parents need to be mindful of speaking well of the other biological parent regardless of how the step-parent feels about that parent.
- Two-way communication of expectations between the step parent and biological parent should be ongoing, although can feel repetitive.
- Keep the conversation with the other biological parent specific to co-parenting rather than anything personal.
- All co-parents ~ biological, step, and ex’s ~ would do well to learn and understand common stepfamily dynamics to help prepare for potential challenges, which will help them sidestep or navigate through.
- Any co-parent who can keep their side of the street clean will facilitate a positive relationship with all other parties.
- For holidays, it’s advisable for the step-parent to learn the family traditions of her family so to avoid inadvertently hurting the feeling of the other parent, while simultaneously creating new traditions that are unique to the step-parent and their step-children.
The best-case scenarios typically happen when the biological parent heals completely after their divorce, and is able to gain closure from their 1st marriage prior to remarrying. Called an Emotional Divorce, this facilitates co-parenting communications, and has best outcomes for the children. Then, when there is an issue between the step-parent and co-parents over ideologies or logistics in decisions for the children, nobody feels threatened or undermined. Thus, it’s easier to answer the question, , “What would give the children the healthiest and happiest life? What would keep the peace and provide harmony in both households?”
Otherwise, if an emotional divorce is not achieved, the issues that ended the marriage can easily play out in co-parenting and influence the step-parent. Therapy for all three adults together can help work on the current blended parenting relationship if all parents want the relationship to work, and want to be the best parents they can be, minus the titles of biological and step. Children would like nothing more than for everyone to get along.
Bottom Line: Be a healthy Role Model for the kids, advocating the positive values you hold dear, even if you have to do it silently. This is ultimately what the kids learn.
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