The first thing the remarried co-parent should have is a detailed, mutually agreed upon, co-parenting plan. He or she should have one within their household and with their former spouse. Remarried couples and divorced co-parents need to stop making it up as they go along and talk about it, prior to divorce or remarriage. Talk about how to handle discipline, visitation, phone calls, birthday parties, etc. because when you are suddenly confronted with these decisions and emotions are high, those emotions usually dictate your decision making. As such, you end up making a decision based on how you feel instead of what’s best for everyone.
Family Mission Statement
Arm yourself with a good family mission statement, which all the members of your household are active participants in creating. Remember that especially because this family wasn’t organically made, some effort will need to go into building and maintaining it. Talk about how you want to connect as a family and make every member feel included in this process.
Be sure to have a good stepfamily coach/counselor on speed dial as it’s not always helpful to listen to those well-meaning family members and friends. Talking to someone who is experienced and knowledgeable on the issues that you will undoubtedly face will be helpful as you navigate through your remarried co-parenting journey.
Drama Free Date Night
Drama free date night, at least once per month, is a must! Stay connected to your spouse; remember that he or she is your biggest support system.
No Judgment Zone Problem/Solution Box
No judgment zone problem/solution box is a simple box that is placed in your house for everyone, including the children, to freely drop their concerns in to be addressed. Overall, everyone in the stepfamily just wants to be appreciated and respected and heard! One of the biggest problems that I have discovered with stepfamilies is that they don’t communicate, unless they are fighting about an issue. The stepmom does what she thinks is expected of her. The divorced dad is often the man caught in the middle as he tries to please both women (ex-wife and wife), and the kids feel like they have absolutely no say in what’s happening. Stepmoms don’t hold it in; voice your concerns. Divorced dads, tell your wives how you feel. Kids, we know this isn’t easy for you and we want you to know that we acknowledge how you feel. A problem/solution box gives everyone a voice and shows that you are working to find a solution that mostly works for everyone. More importantly, it allows the children to feel a part of the unit instead of feeling caught in the middle. It also shows them that the success of the family is also dependent upon their active participation.
It is important to have realistic expectations when entering into a stepfamily. Remember, that stepfamilies do not and cannot operate as first families do and it will take time and a conscious effort to build and maintain your modern family. Relationships take time and effort to build, but not force. Establishing realistics expectations in the beginning will minimize hurt feelings and chaos.