The Other Parent

When I was growing up, I don’t remember hearing much about divorce. I had one friend in high school whose parents were divorced, but it was never mentioned. Fast forward to years later and you guessed it – I married a divorced man with three young children. So I’ve had the first hand opportunity to see the “after divorce” world from both a personal and professional perspective.

The podcast started with the statement about divorce not being one point in time, but is ongoing. And I say, no truer words could be said. When children are involved, the divorce may end the marriage but the relationships and interactions continue literally for a lifetime.

If you’re a parent in the midst of a divorce, or are raising children after a divorce, how do you make it work? I latched on to the phrase – paths to healthy outcomes – and how there are two that work. Most everything else leads to negative outcomes. Those paths are divorced parents working together as warm co-parents or as professional co-parents.

Here’s my take on how professional co-parents work. The adults don’t’ have to be friends but their priority is to do what is best for the kids. They may not agree on how to raise their kids, but they manage to keep conflict under control. These parents try to share decisions and child rearing tasks. Although there is a custody agreement, the parents apply some flexibility and common sense. The professional co-parents see that both parents have a relationship with their kids.

As I look back, I realize our family functioned with professional co-parents (most of the time). No one will tell you it is an easy way to parent. However, the payoff for the kids is tremendous. The stress of the divorce is reduced; children have fewer long-term problems; and they can develop close relationships with both parents and extended family members.

Anyone want to share ideas that work for professional co-parents?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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Episode 15: After Divorce

How parents handle their divorce affects how well their children will adapt to life with mom and life with dad. This month’s Science of Parenting podcast from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach examines what parents can do to help their children live through divorce.

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Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Parenting in Blended Families

Parenting in blended families can be challenging and rewarding. Your new family’s transition will be easier if you know what to expect and are prepared to be flexible.

Normal development
Many blended families face similar issues that require making adjustments within the new family. These issues are normal and can affect both adults and children. For instance, adults may:
• Feel guilty taking their partner’s side or their child’s side in a disagreement
• Feel caught in the middle of their partner, their children, and their partner’s children
• Experience difficulty disciplining their partner’s children
• Feel stressed while trying to navigate through the family’s new roles, rules, and values
Children may:
• Feel disloyal if they accept their new parent
• Feel caught in the middle of their parents, new brothers and sisters, or a new partner
• Feel confused living between two households that may contain two sets of rules, different values, and different consequences
• Not get along with new family members
• Resist discipline from a new partner

In order to make the transition smoother, adults should be aware of and respect these facts:
• Children may not like their new family members right away.
• Forming healthy blended families takes time, work, flexibility and patience.
• Disciplining children in a new family may require extra knowledge and patience.

Discipline
Discipline in a blended family can pose some unique challenges.
Experts recommend that adults:
• Discipline their children from previous relationships for the first few months or years.
• Work together to set family rules and consequences.
• Communicate family rules and consequences together as couple, with all children present.
• Communicate to all children that when a stepparent is alone with the children, the stepparent is in charge. Adults must communicate that the stepparent will enforce the family’s rules and discipline all children accordingly.
• Be consistent in carrying out rules and consequences. Consistent discipline includes both adults in the household enforcing the same rules and consequences for all children.

Research shows that the following methods can nurture a healthy, blended family:
• Create new family traditions.
• As a family, decide which family traditions will be continued from prior relationships.
• Build trust with all members of your new family.
• Be patient. It takes time for children to learn to love, trust, and respect a new adult.
• Remain flexible. Children may not wish to call the new partner, “Mom” or “Dad.”
• Let children have some “say” in the new family.
• Communicate openly with your partner. It’s normal to have some differences when families are formed.
• Allow children to express all of their feelings.
• Realize there are stages most blended families typically go through and each family goes through the stages at different paces.
• Seek outside support or help, if necessary. Going to counseling, reading books about blended families, talking to other members of blended families, and joining a support group are often very beneficial.

Parenting in blended families can be complex, but many families have been extremely successful in creating healthy, positive blended families. Remember to be flexible and patient and to seek support, information, and knowledge about blended families.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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