In our previous two articles, we discussed worry over whether your stepchildren will like you, children requesting secrecy between parents, and your role as disciplinarian in your new family.
So what do you do when you dislike your spouse’s ex, or disagree with them (your spouse) on how best to discipline the kids? Here’s how we choose to deal:
What if I have issues with my spouse’s ex?
I don’t care if you hate their guts and wish them banished to the lower levels of Hades – when face-to-face with your stepchildren’s other parent, always say hello and BE CIVIL. We learned the hard way never to talk negatively about the ex- within earshot of the kids. This has seriously backfired.
It may seem impossible to hold your tongue or keep from sneering, especially if you’ve had recent confrontations with the other parent. Nevertheless – in front of the kids, we “suck it up” and be grown-ups. We’ve had some experience with this (and a fair bit of therapy), so we’re confident sharing this little pearl of step-wisdom.
With practice, it’s gotten easier. Kids want permission to love all of their parents. Seeing you get along can ease the stress of the divorce.
Do it for the kids.
What if my husband and I disagree on how best to raise our kids?
In our experience, it’s important that parents come to an understanding about the role of the stepparent in the home early on. If these conversations don’t take place (there’ll be more than one), you’re setting yourself up for a world o’ hurt.
As I mentioned in teenparentcafe’s “Guide to Raising Someone Else’s Kids, Part II,” we decided that in our family it worked best for me (the biological parent in our case) to take sole responsibility for discipline in the household. Pseudo-Pop (my kids’ pet name for their Stepdad) primarily supports my position and reminds the kids of why the rule was put in place to begin with.
Sometimes – we disagree on my disciplinary decisions. Once I shake off my shock that he would ever disagree with me (KIDDING), we take the discussion into a room where the kids are not, and hash it out. We’re usually able to come to an understanding with a minimum amount of conflict by approaching the situation as unemotionally as possible and being empathetic to each other’s position.
We incorporate this strategy into all of our conversations, especially when dealing with confrontation. We find it works particularly well when dealing with child-rearing issues.
Of course, this is an ongoing effort. Just take it One Day At A Time.
The issues we’ve presented in this three-part series are just the tip of the iceberg. You’ll have your own list.
The theme of your new family’s life together could be as cheerful as The Brady Bunch if you talk to each other, be clear on your roles, and…
HAVE FUN BUILDING YOUR OWN FAMILY HISTORY!