Divorce Attorney Scott J. Stadler

    • 12 SEP 15

    Understanding Successful Step-Parent Relationships

    Father and mother Walking To School With ChildrenIn many cases, the effects of a divorce can reach much further than just the parties to the case, including any minor children involved in the case. Life, however, does not stop just because an individual has obtained a divorce, and it is likely that an individual might remarry after a divorce. While there can be some initial awkwardness between stepparents and biological parents, it is not impossible for a solid relationship to develop. In fact, facilitating a strong relationship between a stepparent and biological parent will not only make things more comfortable for both sides of the divorce, but will also provide the child with a more stable relationship with both parties. Below are some ways step-parents can develop or maintain a successful relationship with the child’s other parent.

    Communication

    One of the biggest ways to either build or break a relationship is through communication. While you do not need to be on good speaking terms with the other parent, the very least that can be done is to inform the other parent of any information about the child. While the other parent may not be able to spend as much time with the child as he used to, any parent would still appreciate learning about the ups and downs of his child’s life. Not only will the other parent miss important opportunities to be a part of his child’s life, but also, the child may be further hurt by a perceived abandonment by the other parent. Even small communication, such as informing the other parent of a safe trip or of an event in the child’s life, can go a long way to building a successful relationship.

    Coordination

    While communication is a big step when it comes to stepparent relationships with the other parent, it will only take you so far. In order to ensure that the child spends enough time with both families, it is also important to make sure that both the parent and stepparent coordinate their efforts to be there for the child. Coordinating schedules and appointments can go a long way to facilitate a relationship between both the stepparent and the other parent. Events that can be coordinated or scheduled include medical appointments, school visits, and vacations. While it might initially feel awkward to show up to a parent-teacher meeting with the other parent, the child will benefit from the support of both families.

    Respect

    Just as it is important to respect the other parent in the little things you do, it is equally important to respect the other parent in front of the child, especially if the other parent is not there. Even if you have a hard time getting along with the other parent, respecting the other parent in front of the child can go a long way to not only fostering a positive relationship between you and the child, but it can also help build a positive relationship between you and the other parent.

    Respect, however, can go much farther than words. In most cases, your actions will speak louder than words, and children will generally take more notice of your actions than what you say. It is important to always be a good role model for the children. In addition, it is just as important to respect any boundaries that the other family may have established.

    Love

    One of the most important things a parent can do for a child is to love him or her. It is important to not get caught up in challenging the other parent’s love, or in trying to one-up the other parent in expressions of affection. While some people might think that buying a child’s affection is an acceptable way to be a ‘better parent,’ a child needs a parent more than ever after a divorce. Love is more than a contest, and when two parents try to outdo one another, everyone loses.

    Do not Neglect the Other Parent

    It is important to remember that, even if the other parent does not have physical custody over the child, he is still the child’s parent. Encouraging your child to recognize the importance of the other parent can help them adjust to any changes. Even little things like remembering the other parent’s birthday or celebrating holidays can help facilitate a successful relationship.

    Be Inclusive

    While you might be tempted to try and limit the other parent’s exposure to the child, or to set up separate schedules, it is always best to be inclusive of the other parent. Inviting the other parent to the child’s birthday party, or to other special occasions, can help build relationships between the stepparent and the other parent. While it might feel weird or awkward to include the other parent in special occasions, doing so can help the child adjust to any changes that will come as a result of the divorce, and can help make things easier for the child from feeling like he constantly has to choose a side during special occasions.