Ex-etiquette: To achieve good co-parenting, planning is key

Planning starts well before parents find someone new by cultivating a mindset of acceptance, writes Dr. Jann Blackstone. (Dreamstime/TNS)Dreamstime/Dreamstime/TNS

Q. My ex’s partner just moved in with my ex. She’s not why we broke up, but they are just so happy it makes me cringe. We share custody of our 6-year-old son. I don’t want her disciplining my son! What’s good ex-etiquette?

A. You can guess this is a pretty common problem. Everyone gets very territorial when it comes to their children, and that’s understandable. But the reality is, most people who break up are going to find someone new. They will most likely marry or move in together, and that means the new person is part of your child’s life. Based on that, few anticipate the amount of preparation needed to successfully pull this off.

Most don’t realize the stresses going back and forth puts on their children. They only see as far as their front door. Plus, the advice given to estranged parents often does not take into consideration the logistics of starting over, and how vital planning is so our children can relax and feel safe in both homes.

The planning starts well before parents find someone new by cultivating a mindset of acceptance. It starts with accepting that life as a couple is over, but working together for the sake of your child is not. Granted, most don’t like their exes, and if that is the case, they may think their new partner is a little nuts for being with them. We all bring out different things in different people. The main thing to remember is your child lives with all of you. What can you do to make your child’s life easier?

Many suggest that the parents’ homes remain completely separate — don’t get into each other’s business. From a relationship stance, that is sound advice. They are a couple now. However, your part is to make it clear you are available to discuss problems and find solutions together. Yes, “she” is not your child’s mother, nor will she ever be, but if you share custody, your child will look to her for advice and consolation and the more you two are on the same page — along with dad — the better off your son will be.

Whether a bonusparent should discipline is an important question, and there is no definitive yes or no answer. Some situations dictate yes, others no. I can say without hesitation that problems set in if the bonusparent is allowed to establish disciplinary protocol for children who are not theirs. Discipline always starts with the parents. The bonusparent follows the parents’ lead. So, if the rule is no food in front of the TV, the parent is not around, the bonusparent must be empowered to reinforce no food in front of the TV, particularly if they also have children in the home. Where the planning comes in is if your son comes home and says, “Lisa always tells me what to do and she won’t let me eat anything,” you have the presence of mind to read between the lines and are open to a clarifying conversation with an adult. That’s good ex-etiquette.

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