A blended family has more members than we sometimes acknowledge, so it may be helpful now and then to take a renewed look at your extended family structure. A successful blended family makes accommodations with an ex-spouse and his or her new partner, and understanding how much they impact kids who spend time at their home in a joint custody arrangement. Making it possible for your children to maintain a meaningful and healthy relationship with their other parent is an important aspect of step family life, and cooperative co-parenting is part of that maintenance.

Making co-parenting and joint custody work

An amicable co-parenting and joint custody partnership with your ex-spouse is one of the most important relationships you can cultivate. When both parents set aside their own personal issues and put them first, children gain a kind of stability and self-worth that is hard to match. Laying aside hurts and frustrations that led to divorce is rarely easy to achieve, but despite the challenges and the stress, you can develop a cordial working relationship with your ex-spouse.

Co-parenting after a divorce and remarriage

After your divorce and remarriage, the only relationship you have with your ex-spouse is that of co-parents of your children. It can help to begin thinking of the relationship as something completely new, something quite outside of you and your ex-spouse. This new relationship is not about either of you, but entirely about your children. Your marriage may be over, but your family is not; doing what is best for your kids must be the priority. The first step to being a mature, responsible co-parent is to always put the needs of your kids ahead of your own.

Co-parenting is the best option for your children

When you and your ex-spouse work together in cooperation for their benefit, your kids see that they are more important than whatever conflict ended the marriage. They can understand that your love for them will prevail, no matter what. Kids whose divorced parents have a cooperative relationship feel more secure, confident that they are loved and worthwhile. Familiarity and consistency foster confidence, and your ability to work together helps children understand and learn concepts of effective conflict solution. When you provide a healthy example of cooperation and mature problem solving, you are establishing a life pattern that your children can carry into the future.

If your ex-spouse has also remarried

You deserve and expect consideration and respect for your role as step parent to the biological children of your new blended family partner. Likewise, your consideration and respect for your ex-spouse’s new partner is called for, as well. He or she is likely to have an influence on your children, and your support and cooperation can only benefit your children.

Enlist your partner’s help

As mentioned above, co-parenting with someone you wish you never had to see again is not easy, and it can sometimes take its toll in tension and exasperation. Keep personal issues with your ex-spouse away from your children and never, ever, say negative things to them about your ex. You may never completely lose all the bitterness and resentment associated with your ex-spouse, but you can compartmentalize those feelings, especially with help.

Now is a good time to appreciate and utilize your built-in support system!  Seek consolation, advice, and encouragement from your blended family partner. Inform him or her whenever you meet or speak with your ex-spouse, and keep them abreast of all the issues, problems, successes, and victories connected to your co-parenting activities. You and your new spouse are the core of your blended family, and it is imperative that you share your life with them, including co-parenting endeavors. For more information regarding blended and step family relationships, visit The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.