Today I want to share a child’s point of view on being in a co-parenting situation. If this doesn’t
relate to your own children, it may be the situation of a child you know. Either way, a child’s perspective is important to keep in mind, it may even help you understand why she is acting out or withdrawing from her family or activities. Let’s take a look at “Julia,” age 10. She splits his time between her mom’s home with her current husband and their “ours” kids, and her dad’s home with his wife and her 3 children. Julia has many relationships to balance at such a young age! Let’s take a look at just a few of them: 1. At Mom’s House: Julia-Mom-Stepdad Julia-Mom-Half-siblings Julia-Stepdad-Half-siblings 2. At Dad’s house Julia-Dad-Stepmom Julia-Dad-Stepsiblings Julia-Stepmom-Stepsiblings Now, remember, she is only 10. She is only at each parent’s home part-time. Every time she shifts from one home to the other, there is a “re-entry” period where she tries to fit into the dynamic that has continued without her for a couple of days. In addition, she only sees her stepsiblings every other visit because they shift homes as well. Julia feels pulled in many directions. She is asked by one parent about how it was at her other parent’s home. She desperately wants everyone to get along and be “OK” so she says it was “fine” and changes the subject. Julia doesn’t want Mom to know that she has fun with her stepmom, it may hurt Mom’s feelings. She also doesn’t want Dad to know that she really enjoyed it when her stepdad taught her how to bowl when they had a family outing. “Dad might be sad that he wasn’t the one to teach me.” Julia is tired. She’s tired of navigating all those relationships. She’s tired of “hiding” how much fun she has with her stepparents so her birth parents aren’t sad or mad. “I feel like I have to keep everyone happy” – That’s a lot to handle for someone so little. So, what can the adults do in this situation? Take the burden off of her! Give her permission to grow those relationships without regret. Tell her, point blank, “I think it’s great that you have fun with your stepmom/stepdad.” Ask her what they did together so she feels safe having those conversations. Let her know it’s okay to love someone else in addition to you.
This doesn’t have to be an “either/or”...it can be a “both/and” situation.
Yes, it may be hard knowing she’s having fun with someone you dislike, but remember that this isn’t about you. (I’m sorry if that feels harsh.) This is about another adult taking the time to bond with Julia and help her feel loved and cared about. It’s about Julia not feeling like she has to protect the adults in her life. That’s not her job, she’s a child! When we see a child stressed, acting out, or withdrawing it’s important to take a step back and look at the bigger picture from your child’s point of view. You’d be amazed at how much you’ll see when you take the time to walk in their shoes! If you know someone who would find this helpful, please forward it on! Looking for support and strategies for your stepfamily's success? I work with blended and soon-to-be-blended couples! You can check out my services at: www.daretoparent.com.