Advice for When Your Co-Parent's Partner Helps with Your Children
- Dealing with your ex’s new partner or spouse
- Healthy boundaries between your child and your ex’s partner
- Healthy boundaries between you and your ex’s partner
- Scenarios in which your co-parent’s partner might overstep their boundaries
- Tips for embracing your blended family
Your marriage is over, but your family is not. And successfully co-parenting with your ex is critical to your kids’ long-term well-being.
At some point, you or your ex may bring a new partner into the equation. This can pique all sorts of emotions for either of you, but part of acting responsibly as a co-parent is considering the new partner in terms of your children’s welfare instead of acting on any anger or hurt you may be feeling.
So, how do you navigate the addition of this new person to your extended “co-family?”
Dealing with your ex’s new partner or spouse
No matter how long you’ve been divorced, it can still be difficult when your ex has a new partner. This new person is now entering your kids’ lives, and you may have conflicting feelings about it. But if the new partner is going to be a significant long-term person in your children’s lives, you’ll have to find positive ways to approach co-parenting with them.
You will want to cultivate this relationship slowly and keep things in perspective. You may not like this person, and you may have totally different parenting styles. But they probably have their own insecurities as well, and it can help to insert a bit of empathy.
Healthy boundaries between your child and your ex’s partner
While there is value in maintaining a peaceful family unit and taking the high road, it’s equally important to establish healthy boundaries for yourself and your kids with your ex’s new partner. Think about these questions:
- How will discipline be handled?
- What happens if the new partner disrespects you as the parent?
- How will you communicate?
- What do you expect of each other?
- If either of you has issues, how will you address them?
Once boundaries are established, you will have a set of rules of engagement that you all should respect. But it can also help to expand your own vision of what co-parenting should look like.
While we often talk about taking a “village” to raise a child, we quickly cut that off when part of that “village” is our ex’s new person. But more love to go around isn’t necessarily bad. If your kids feel loved and enjoy their time with your ex’s new partner, is it possible that everyone could benefit from it? Including your kids?
Healthy boundaries between you and your ex’s partner
Establishing healthy boundaries is important in your co-parenting relationship with your ex’s new person.
- Engage in healthy and open communication with your ex so you can address any issues that may arise.
- Treat your ex’s partner as an equal, not an “other.”
- Coordinate calendars periodically so you are all on the same page.
- Model respectful communication in front of your kids so they see a cooperative unit.
- Be consistent.
- Keep your children out of any conflict.
The truth is, no matter what boundaries you’ve imposed, your ex's new partner is a different person from you. And you won’t be around to witness most of the parenting that goes on when your children are with them. Keeping the lines of communication open and friendly can help you understand what’s happening in the other household.
Unless the new partner is a threat to your children’s health or well-being, the best way for you to shape co-parenting with them is to have a good relationship with them. If you feel the new partner is overstepping their boundaries, however, that’s when communication is key. Address it privately and compassionately.
If you think the new person overstepped their boundaries
If you feel your ex’s new partner is overstepping their boundaries, it’s important to address that with your ex … while still keeping your emotions in check.
Revisit how you expect discipline to be handled. (Your ex may not know that the new partner is disciplining the kids.) If you suspect that your ex’s new partner is bad-mouthing you or your ex or trying to come between your kids and either of you, frame this discussion with your ex in a controlled and unemotional way so you don’t come off as suspicious or overwrought. If you’ve established good communication with your ex, it’ll be easier to discuss these things without appearing overly emotional and without getting your kids involved.
Tips for embracing your blended family
The quality of your relationship with your ex’s new partner directly impacts your kids. If that relationship is a friendly and relaxed one, it’ll be easier on the kids.
- Decide to look for the positives in your ex’s new partner and the ways they may enhance your kids’ lives.
- Encourage your children's relationship with the new partner.
- Embrace compromise.
- Put aside your negative feelings of jealousy or resentment.
- Look for solutions instead of problems.
- Address any issues out of earshot of the kids.
- Maintain an open and communicative relationship with your ex so you can address any problems as a co-parenting team.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Blended families come with their own set of potential problems, but they also have their advantages. The more love your kids experience and the more they can adapt to new situations, surroundings, and people, the happier and healthier adults they will become. It will take time for everyone to understand each other and adjust to these new family dynamics. Be patient.
At Hello Divorce, we recognize that divorce is not just a legal process. It’s also a financial and emotional process that will affect you and your kids for years to come. We have plans, services, and a library of resources designed to help you live your best life while navigating the time before, during, and after your divorce. Let us help.