No job can ever be as challenging as parenting. As someone once said, “If all of your time, energy and money are not going into your kids then you’re not doing it right.”
To say that the first baby doesn’t come with an owner’s manual is probably not true any longer as most couples receive a plethora of baby and parenting books at the baby shower. Grandparents and friends have a lot of advice – most of it useful. But, sometimes the parents themselves – at any stage of parenting – are in disagreement as to how to handle an issue.
Step-parenting presents its own challenges. The beginning of the blended family is usually a happy time – at least for the parents. They are embarking on a new life together and expect that it will be happy and successful. Sometimes this creates unrealistic expectations and disappointment. Often, the children are coping with loyalty issues, negative messages from the other parent, resentments about a new parent and how much power that new parent will weld over them, and the death of the dream that their parents will reconcile.
Often, these fears are completely unknown to the parents. Most parents entering into a new marriage and a blended family find it helpful to meet with a professional with experience in this area. The counselor can help them to have realistic expectations about their new family and to know how to provide support and understanding to their children.
Co-parenting after divorce is especially challenging for many people. Newly divorced parents may be nursing anger, hurt and disappointment over the failed marriage and may struggle mightily just to be civil with each other. If the divorced parents can bring themselves to counseling, the happiness and wellbeing of their children – and of themselves – can be greatly improved.
I always recommend that divorced parents read Amy Baker’s excellent paper: Beyond the High Road: Responding to 17 Parental Alienation Strategies without Compromising Your Morals or Harming Your Child.