When your co-parent gets a new partner – it can often be met with huge challenges for your child and for you: meeting them, learning their personality, adjusting to their parenting style, and (if they have kids of their own) adding in THEIR family as well.
This is especially challenging if your separation involved infidelity, substance use, one hiding money from the other, work schedules and so much more.
My ex and his wife along with my husband and I have been co-parenting our son (who is 10) for almost nine years. It’s not a perfect balance, but we have learned much along the way. If you’re struggling, there is hope.
Here are some things that helped us that may help you as you co-parent with a new partner:
Make an Effort
Reach out to your new co-parent. Introduce yourself. Ask them about themselves, where they grew up and what they do. Make note of their birthday and have your kids call them to wish them happy birthday (if they’re with you when it happens). Include them when talking about family to your child. You don’t have to be BFFs but they are in your life and your child’s life. Even if you’re met with a cold shoulder or a rejection of your advances– you tried. Your kids see you trying. Be proud of that.
Find a Common Ground
What does your co-parent like? Do you share any interests? Are you both OBSESSED with The Walking Dead? Are you both big Iowa football fans? My son’s stepmom and I both love LuLaRoe, Jeffree Star Cosmetics, and Disney. Find something to talk about or ask them about. Heck, even talk about the weather when you meet up to do the parent switch! Small steps can lead to big strides.
Encourage your Child to Be Open to Them
This is a whole brand-new person for your child. Depending on the age of your kids, this may take some time and that’s perfectly normal. A lot of children hold onto the idea that their parents are going to get back together again. Let your child know that you and their other parent getting back together is not likely.
Let them know it is ok to develop a relationship with their parent’s new partner and share interests with them. You might find yourself a new interest as well that you can all share. Help them know they can talk to their new stepparent just like they can talk to you or their other biological parent. This can also be beneficial down the road when your child needs someone to rely on but aren’t quite ready to talk to you or their other parent yet.
My End Thoughts:
My ex’s new wife and I are great friends. We reached a turning point in our parenting relationship several years ago when she shared with me about some marital issues and asked me about my relationship with my ex. This conversation opened so many doors for us. Our son now loves when his four parents hang. That doesn’t mean we always get along, but we try.
Kids learn relationships from their parents, so much more than we realize. How you and your co-parent treat each other – even when you’re no longer a couple- will still influence your child and what they look for in their own partner someday.
This new person in your child’s life is not your enemy! You’re all on the same team. It may not seem like it some days, but you all want the same thing – a happy, healthy child who will grow up to be a happy, functional adult. Extend that olive brand or reach out a helping hand if you see them in need.
So, even though co-parenting with a new partner is difficult, who knows? Someday that new co-parent may be the one to pick you up after a hard day or catch you when you fall.
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