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Building a Healthy Relationship with your Kids’ Stepparent

Co-parenting isn’t easy with a new stepparent. There are great benefits to establishing a relationship with this new parental figure in your kids’ lives.
(2 min 59 sec read)

Grace McSpadden
Grace McSpadden is a novelist and film producer living in Los Angeles.

The idea of having a stranger raise your kids can be terrifying, especially if you don’t have the opportunity to meet them first which is very common in co-parenting relationships. It’s like having a babysitter watch your kids but no say in who that person is, how they treat your kids, or what they do when they are with your children. A stepparent isn’t a babysitter though, they are very much a parental figure to your kids. I know this sounds scary, but it is absolutely vital to form a good relationship with your kids’ stepparent. This starts with some healthy boundaries with your co-parent.

I found moments where I would slip into old habits with my co-parent, treating them more like a friend or an ex-boyfriend than someone with a new wife. I would message him when a thought concerning the kids would cross my mind or call him when it was convenient for me. This didn’t go over so well with his new wife. I could tell that I was stepping over the boundaries for her, and in recognizing the wrong in crossing that line, I was able to build healthy boundaries with my ex.

There are some seriously great benefits of forming a healthy relationship with your kids’ new stepparent if you are willing to put in the effort. Here are some of those benefits:

  • You always have a possible babysitter that you can trust when you need someone. The best babysitter is one the kids know, and know well. 
  • You can join outings with your co-parent and stepparent when they have the kids, giving yourself additional time with the kids. My family are big supporters of Star Wars, Harry Potter, and anything animation. We try to take the kids out to movies that we feel will have an impact on them the way that Jurassic Park and Lord of the Rings had an impact on me and my husband. When the new Star Wars movie came out, it went without question that I would want to take my kids to see the movie but unfortunately, I didn’t have the kids, my ex did. He and his wife were gracious enough to invite me and my husband along to enjoy the experience with our kids together. I wasn’t sure whose idea it was, but I know that by forming a good relationship with my kid’s stepparent, I was able to ensure the possibility of having these types of outings with them.
  • It’s possible that you can make a new friend. I know, this sounds crazy, but remember that your ex is now with a new person and at one point they were with you. I know that I have a type, and so does my ex. The woman he chose to be with is more similar to me than I originally thought. We have quite a lot in common and over the years we have been able to be quite cordial with each other and more often than not enjoy each other’s company.

Having a stepparent involved in co-parenting is only bad if both parties allow it to be. There is no way I’d say it’s easy to deal with, but when emotion is set aside and you are able to recognize the benefits of forming a healthy relationship with your kids’ new stepparent, your kids win! 

Editor’s Notes: this amazing experience is, in certain families, not possible (for many reasons) and that is ok, as long as you have found what works for your family and your children. Co-parenting is not a one size fits all scenario!

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