How to Co Parent Teens After Divorce

Earlier this month I was asked to write a guest post for StopMedicineAbuse.org, a website that educates parents on the dangers of over the counter medicine abuse as well as important topics regarding teens.  

JUNE 06, 2017 – published on stopmedicineabuse.org

 Co-parenting teens can present some unique challenges. As a parent to three girls soon entering their teens, I worry about whether I will be able to give them all the guidance they need to become self-confident, independent women. For 320 days a year, I try to parent selflessly and place them at the center of my world, while the remaining 44 days a year, they are with their dad whose parenting (and lifestyle) is very different than mine.

My daughters ask me many of the same questions I have to answer as a high school teacher. Students come to me with fear and confusion because their lives are changing so much at the hands of their parents, and they feel like they have no control. I often ask myself how I can create a soft place for them to land when I have no control over what they’re going through outside my classroom.

When my kids, be it my daughters or my students, aren’t with me I want them to have the tools needed to navigate through any situation and still feel a sense of safety and control. Here are some things parents can do to help their teen through divorce:

Read more here: http://stopmedicineabuse.org/blog/details/how-to-co-parent-teens-after-divorce

 

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coparenting holidays

How To Co-Parent During The Holidays

If you’ve been through divorce, you remember the day that changed your life forever.  For me, it was Easter.  My husband had made some extremely selfish choices and I was left to protect our girls, 5, 3, and 11 months old who no matter what came my way, managed to keep me going.  

This was me walking to my first Easter celebration alone.  I had 3 babies and a dog as I walked up to greet my entire family who were full of questions I didn’t have the answer to.

That Easter the girls had no idea what their dad and I were going through.  They were so happy to find their Easter baskets and they picked through each egg one-by-one.  They held up their Easter goodies and snuck sweets well before their traditional bunny pancake breakfast.  I made sure to keep their normal traditions and routines alive, while their dad spiraled out of control.

A lot has happened over the last 7 years.  Holidays have come and gone with or without their dad.  He missed his daughter’s first steps, first birthday, first Easter, and continues to choose which life events are worthy of his time.  Through it all, I have been their constant. 

Except this Easter.

  • This Easter he decided that it was on his weekend so I did not get to spend Easter with them.
  • This Easter he decided that the Easter bunny wasn’t coming, even though 2 of 3 kids still believe. 
  • This Easter, the girls didn’t wake up before the sun to scurry find their Easter baskets, instead they were ignored in their room until 11:00
  • This Easter they didn’t get to eat my famous bunny pancakes
  • This Easter he decided church wasn’t important.  

How many more years do they have before they stop believing?  Before they don’t wake us up early and find pure joy in the surprises those baskets hold.  How many more years do we have before they don’t care about bunny pancakes?  When will they stop having faith because of the inconsistencies in their parents?

This Easter, I cried all morning long.  I couldn’t even look at Facebook because all I saw were happy Easter pictures.  All I could think about were my kids ignored in their rooms on a day that is usually filled with so much love and magic.  

I texted Madie to make sure they knew the Easter Bunny didn’t forget about them:  

“Did the Easter bunny come?”

“NO.”

“Well, he came here!”

“He did!”

“Yep!”

“What did he do?”

“Well, I went to do laundry and found a basket in the washer machine!”

“OMG!!”

I called to talk to Makenna and her little face was pouty as she stared at her iPad.  I told her the silly Easter bunny messed up and came to our house instead.  She said she wanted to come home and I told her she’d be home soon and I’d leave everything the bunny brought for her to find when she gets here.  

I underestimate their intelligence since even when we were camping last year, the Easter bunny managed to find our tent, but they went along with it and I sent my Easter love before hanging up and bursting into tears, again.

Why do I always find myself making up for his mistakes?  It’s an easy answer… While it’s not fair to me, it’s what a good parent does.  A good parent is consistent and always makes sure that their kids feel safe and loved. A good parent is selfless when it comes to their child’s needs.

This is not the first, and it is definitely not the last holiday celebration he will ruin.  One year, he returned all of the kid’s Christmas gifts, because he said I was ungrateful.  I went to the store and purchased them again.  

A few months ago he told them to bring a lost tooth home because the tooth fairy didn’t come to his house.   On Halloween, he posted pictures of them in their homemade costumes and said he was getting ready to take them trick-or-treating.  Meanwhile, he had chosen to not see them in over a month.  He doesn’t seem to care about actually spending holidays with them, as long as it can look like he did.

So, why keep them from me this Easter?  It has always been my holiday.  He is not religious, he’s never done Easter bunny duties, he doesn’t find joy in waking them up to spend Easter morning with them.  Another answer I can’t swallow; even after 7 years and all I’ve done to raise our kids with consistency and love, he still uses them to hurt me.

I have learned that the secret to coparenting, is to rise above.  

Easter holds some bad memories for me and this year just adds to it, but I will rise up.  I will celebrate Easter because it’s a day of rebirth.  It was the day my daughters and I rose from the ashes and started a new journey together.  This year, I realized that he isn’t capable of hurting me, because through his actions, I have only become a stronger woman and a better mom.

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coparenting

The Greatest Lesson In Co-Parenting

There is no secret to co parenting, but here are a few ways I’ve made the tough times a little easier.

Give them confidence when they question his love

The only thing I can do is to try to make them strong and happy the 324 days a year they are with me. When they are exposed to one of his episodes, I do damage control. I say things like,

Your dad loves you, he just shows you love in a different way that we do.
Your dad doesn’t always make the best choices, but he always loves you.
Your dad doesn’t get to see you a lot so he probably doesn’t know ______.

Encourage them to share their feelings

My girls aren’t actually themselves when they talk to their dad.  With me, they have no problem expressing themselves, but with him, they act the way they think he wants them to act.  I encourage them to share their feelings because I can’t always fight their battles. Depending on his mood, I’m either a controlling bitch or great mom who they girls are lucky to have. Of course, what he thinks of me doesn’t matter, my priority is making sure the girls feel safe and loved.

Remember it’s not about you

I have spent the last 7 years protecting our children from his inconsistent, selfish behavior. I have shown them happiness when everything was literally falling apart around us. Some days have been hard, and I wish he would fall completely out of their lives for good, but then I remember, it’s not about me.

I can only hope that after my daughter’s experiences with their dad, they will not feel unworthy of his love, or rejected and damaged. Instead, I hope they will learn the true lesson of unconditional love.

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