I know a lot of you have a school-aged child. This time of year can be chaotic with the start of a new school year, extra-curricular activities, drop-off and pick-up logistics, etc.
You also might find yourself in a position of co-parenting with your partner and possibly their ex, and maybe even with their ex’s new partner as well.
These extra cooks in the kitchen can add to the overwhelm and leave you feeling uncertain as to what your role is in supporting your beloved stepchild.
So today we’re discussing some things to keep in mind as you consider co-parenting and ensuring the best environment and supports for your stepchild.
Negotiating a Shared Schedule That Works for the Co-Parents and the Child
Remember that though kids will never admit that they need structure, they do.
Yes… even teenagers!
The predictability provides them with a sense of security and a sense of calm.
How much is too much? What can you realistically commit to. These are all important and highly individualized considerations.
Some people have more flexibility when it comes to time and finances and others have less. Some kids enjoy and benefit from keeping busy, where-as others get burnt out.
It’s great if you can create a schedule with activities that represent the spectrum of buckets – Academic/Work, Fun, Movement, and Connection.
Keep in mind the buckets won’t have equal weight distribution. But the most important one to focus on is Connection.
Including your stepchild in some of the decision-making will help you to gain their cooperation. Start off by offering them choices of 2 or 3 things.
The more consistency the kids have at each parent’s home, the more likely the transitions will be smoother and that children will naturally be able to stick to the established routine once they get the hang of the rhythm.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is connection. Creating opportunities for that, by joining the child in a favorite activity or intentionally creating moments to just “be” together, is critically important for kids in a co-parenting situation.
Especially right now where they are relying for that soothing support and guidance from their caregivers during this stressful and unprecedented time.
Should Stepparents Share the Academic Responsibility
What makes the most sense based on the specific situation?
If the parent(s) and the stepparent(s) are sharing time with the child equally, or the child is with just the stepparent during prime homework time during the week and the stepparent(s) and parent(s) are able to share this responsibility, then definitely “Yes!”
Wherever possible, kids benefit from different perspectives, explanations, and approaches to learning. And having additional cheerleaders is wonderful.
But, if sharing the academic responsibility would be detrimental to the child, where the child isn’t getting their needs met.
Or if a safe and nurturing learning environment cannot be maintained by one of the parent(s) or stepparent(s), then it’s best to work out another arrangement.
The right answer is the one that is most beneficial to the child and the one that supports the child’s development and success.
How Important Is It for Your Stepchild to Have a Reliable Schedule?
Having a predictable schedule helps to soothe the child and provides a sense of security. Even teenagers, who we think of as adults, still very much need structure. The more consistency kids have, the more secure they feel.
This provides them with a sense of calm, especially during times of intense change or uncertainty. However, when things don’t go according to plan, and the parent or stepparent can take charge, go with it.
Change directions and make the most of the experience by just having some fun and connecting with the child. This is a huge win!
It teaches the them, yes, sometimes life throws curve balls, and during those times, self-nurturing and letting go, is okay.
This is an important life-skill for them to learn and develops great resiliency by reframing the event as an opportunity rather than something negative.
This is not to say abandon the initial intention or the thing that you were trying to accomplish that needs attention or resolution.
It just means that if things aren’t working out: let it go, change direction, get to a better place, and then come back to it and deal with it.
What if my Co-Parent and I Have Differing Parenting Styles on Education?
Sharing your views and walking through a “pros & cons” list might be valuable. But you have to recognize when you’re at an impasse.
It is possible that enlisting the help of a coach might be beneficial in offering a new perspective or drilling down to understand what might be creating an obstacle.
Ultimately, it comes down to realizing what you have control over and let go of what you do not. You cannot control the actions of other people, so no need to add to your suffering by trying to do that.
Never speak ill of the other parent or their choices (even if your stepchild does it). This will just upset your stepchild, make them resentful of you and make the whole situation more difficult and painful for them.
It’s best to just create open communication with your stepchild and explain your position and your perspective on why you are making the choices you are making and let that information speak for itself.
I don’t have enough Time in the Day to Work and Parent – how do I Communicate with the Other Parent(s)?
If speaking in person is difficult and not producing results, sitting down and writing your thoughts and the reasons for them and emailing or mailing them to the other parent(s) might be a better solution.
You’ll have an opportunity to get clear on what really matters to you and what you want to say and why you feel it’s important without possibly getting interrupted or triggered.
Conversely, your ex-partner will have an opportunity to read through your point of view in their own time to actually digest it without feeling like they are being put on the spot to immediately respond.
Families that stay together play together. So I’m inviting you to come up with a connection activity to do with your stepchild. It can involve your partner or be an activity just for the 2 of you.
It can be a fun outing to an event, doing a project together or simply showing them a favorite old movie that’s right up their alley you think they’ll love.
And pick 1 co-parenting tip to focus and execute a change in to help smooth out disagreements with the other caregivers and help support your stepchild in their academic goals.
Create a deadline by which you will have clear action items and will have executed on them. And pick an accountability partner to help you ensure follow through.
Remember, prioritizing action, even when realizing something didn’t work out as planned, is a step forward in creating the joyful and fulfilling relationships and life you want.
Until next time, be well!
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