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How do you deal with post-divorce 'part time' parenting?

Divorce brings numerous parenting challenges. This can be particularly true for non-custodial parents who find themselves "part time" parents to the children in their lives. Staying connected to what's going on in their lives is a challenge. Disciplining them during the periods when you do have responsibility for them can also be difficult.

This can be even more challenging for the new spouse of a non-custodial parent who has to try to build a relationship with his or her stepchildren during weekend, holiday and vacation visits. In addition to tension with the kids, this situation can also cause stress in the new marriage. A biological parent may not understand why his or her spouse is anxious about the children's visits or unwilling to exercise discipline.

One therapist who has written books on marriage and family says that sometimes non-custodial biological and stepparents can overestimate the fragility of the relationship and become anxious to the point of paralysis. Sometimes, you just have to manage your expectations and take a risk to build a stronger parent-child relationship.

For "part-time" North Dakota and Minnesota parents who find themselves feeling these fears, the therapist suggests taking a closer look at those fears and the risks involved in overcoming them to help become the parent they want to be. Parents should list the things they are afraid will happen and the potential cost of each of those fears. Then, they should determine which ones they are willing to pay to be a stronger parent. It's important for couples to discuss these issues together. Parenting collaboration is essential whenever possible.

Another important question to ask is how you would parent your children differently if they lived with you on a full-time basis. That can be an important indicator of what kind of parent you really want to be.

If adjustments need to be made in your child custody agreement to allow more time with your children, your family law attorney may be able to help you with that. If the problems are serious, he or she may be able to recommend a family therapist to help you all work out this new family dynamic so that the children will have the advantage of strong parental figures no matter which home they happen to be in.

Source: FamilyLife.com, "Part-time Parenting" Ron L. Deal, Sep. 23, 2014

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Commandments of Family Law

  1. The only truth your children need to know is that you both love them unconditionally, and that this isn't their fault.
  2. Take the high road — everyone wins when you do what's best for your kids.
  3. Negotiate but don't capitulate — if you are being pushed toward something detrimental for your children, stand your ground.
  4. You can only control yourself and how you respond. Don't engage.
  5. Do set up rules and responsibilities. Kids feel better when routine is continued.
  6. You are still their parent — don't be afraid to be one.
  7. Disneyland is in California, not in your home. Don't set up unreasonable expectations.
  8. It is not their job to take care of you. Repeat that to them. Often.
  9. Yelling is for sports — not court. Good lawyers strongly advocate without being disrespectful to opposing parties.
  10. Fair is a place you go to get cheese curds. Aside from that, nothing in life is fair.

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