Single parents soon come to realize: We can’t do this alone.
It also helps to understand: We are NOT in competition.
While the thought of another person entering our child’s life may make us cringe for a variety of reasons, we can hope for an amicable co-parenting relationship, or at least hope of one day getting there.
When my kids’ father’s relationship escalated, I realized I had two choices. I could resist it or I could embrace it. After much consideration, I chose to embrace it, even though I wanted to resist it.
I have heard the phrase “bonus parent” used instead of “step-parent,” and I whole-heartedly love it.
Clearly, I can address this touchy subject only from my own experience. My heart goes out to those of you who struggle with custody battles or any of the myriad co-parenting troubles. For some of us, an amicable relationship may not be viable.
Even if it is, it’s a challenge. Having a “new” parent in your kids’ lives is like having your heart put into a stranger’s hands. You don’t know the outcome or have any say in it.
To move to an amicable co-parenting relationship, we can no longer live in the past. In order to see a brighter future, we have to do our best to create a bright present.
Here are a few tips I have found useful in handling the situation.
Accept the new mate. They’re in this new relationship (which is hard enough), but with kids. If those kids are teens, Good Luck! If they’re willing to meet you, give them a chance. Meeting the parent of their significant other’s kids is insanely brave.
Get in their shoes. They’re getting themselves into the well-known stressful situation of step-parenting. Kids can be cruel. We can be good role models.
Work on yourself. Listen to podcasts, go to therapy, work on your feelings. Not only will this help you out in the long run, but you’ll feel better overall.
Don’t bash the parent or the new mate. Ever. And never ever in front of the kids. They need positive direction to achieve the best outcomes in life. Be the role model they need.
Having put the above into practice, I offer this open letter to the bonus parents in our lives.
Dear Bonus Parent,
First, I want to thank you for being an active and compassionate parent to these children. You have been respectful, friendly and understanding, even though you were misunderstood at times.
Coming into a child’s life as an outsider is no easy task. It takes bravery, stamina and a certain level of empathetic commitment to make this work.
I see you, trying your best to make them laugh, to be there for them, to know where your place is with any and all parts of parenting.
When first meeting the kids, I’m sure you were filled with apprehension, having heard stories about them, how they liked this but not that. I’m sure you were also filled with questions: Would they like me? What is my role? What do we even talk about?
But you showed up. And in committing to their parent, you committed to them.
Perhaps you had no intention of becoming a disciplinarian, or someone who would take care of them when they were sick, but somewhere along the way, you became an intricate part of their lives.
They grew to love you.
The things I want to thank you for the most is your willingness to be with the kids when their other parent can’t be, and to share talents the other parents lack. You can listen and be a sounding board. You can do hair in ways that no one else can. You bring something unique and beautiful to this family.
The hardest thing to hear as a parent is your kids saying they love their step-parent as deeply as they love you. But I’m here to say that it’s a gift that the kids can make that statement. You are an important part of their lives, as much as you are part of the life of their biological parent.
Ultimately, it takes a village to raise a child. I’m so glad you’re a part of the village.
Much love and comradery,