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Faith-Based Co-Parenting*

How to Parent through a Faith-Based Lens... Even If You're Not Together.

*Adapted from "I'm Not Your Kid: A Christian's Guide to a Healthy Stepfamily" by Kay Adkins.

*Also available via the Smart Stepfamilies Website

Watch this 2-minute video for the top 3 tips!

Britney Vincent, MS, LPC-Associate, Supervised by Celeste Inman, MEd, LPC-S, RPT-S


Seven Beattitudes for Successful Co-Parenting

Kay Adkins, Excerpt from I’m Not Your Kid: A Christian’s Guide to a Healthy Stepfamily

Sarah and Jack just went through a difficult breakup. After years of jealousy, mistrust, blaming each other, and “trying again,” they finally agree, “It isn’t good for the kids to see us fighting all the time. Things between us will never change. We’ve got to think of the kids.” Sarah and Jack split up, believing that the kids were now less at risk of being hurt. What Sarah and Jack could not foresee is that their anger, disappointments, and frustrations will likely find another way to surface that will be equally as damaging to their children, if not more so. About half of former spouses fall into the general description of “difficult,” and there are several ways to be a difficult former spouse. For example:

  • “Trespassers” do not acknowledge the autonomy of their former spouse’s new home and constantly make the other home jump through hoops—you have to do it their way, or you won’t get it at all.

  • “Saboteurs” resent the perceived happiness of the former spouse, and work to damage that happiness by competing for the child’s love, or planting divisive seeds.

  • “Ghosts” are faithful to keep legal commitments, but emotionally detach from children.

  • “Junkies” hurt others by abusive behaviors—getting revenge by becoming chemically dependent, or lashing out emotionally or physically.

Imagine being a child of divorce, needing stability, needing to feel loved, supported, and protected by both parents, yet one or both perpetuate the tug-of-war they started when the family was together. But now, it’s worse. Mom is always making dad change his plan in order to see you. Or maybe Dad criticizes Mom to his new wife, in front of you, and clearly he wants you to side with him. Or maybe mom is always offering to buy you things, which would be great, except you can tell she does it just so you’ll want to be with her instead of Dad. Or maybe Dad shows up on time, and he’s glad to see you, but all you do together during visitations is watch sports on T.V. Or, Mom is still so angry at Dad, that sometimes she screams, “You’re a selfish brat, just like your father!”

There is another way.

Seven “Be” Attitudes for Co-parenting

In Matthew 5, Jesus taught nine beatitudes for blessed living. The Amplified Bible translates the word “blessed” as ‘happy, fortunate, to be envied.’ Several of the nine “Blessed are” statements contradict our typical ideas of things that lead to happiness, such as “blessed are the poor in spirit,” or “blessed are those who mourn,” or “blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness.” The paradox of the Christian life is that often what we least want in our lives can work for our ultimate well-being. With that in mind, consider these seven “Be” attitudes to produce healthier kids. Be healed, be dependable, be the adult, be respectful, be perceptive, be near, and be a team. Be Healed Jer. 17:14 Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise. James 5:16 Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.

According to researchers, divorce recovery can take between two and five years, but might never take place if the person does not exert effort to recover.

If you will be healed, consider taking some of the following steps:

  • Read, read, read. Learn about the effects of divorce on adults and children and how to overcome the hurts of the past.

  • Write. Journal your own ups and downs.

  • Don’t dwell on the past; plan for the future.

  • When in the dumps over your own unmet emotional needs, meet someone else’s emotional need.

  • Learn to forgive. Seek support through counseling or a group such as Divorce Recovery.

  • Pray. Honestly confess your ugliest feelings to God(He can handle it!). Seek His comfort, and His perspective.

Be the Adult

1 Cor. 13:10-11 “When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” In other words, “when I grew up, I began to speak as an adult, think as an adult, and reason as an adult.” Divorcees frequently resort to childish ways of dealing with each other. So the first tip for being the adult is to learn to communicate with the other parent in an adult manner. Do Away With Childish Speaking.Healthy communication takes time and practice to achieve. A good book on healthy communication is a must! But here are some tips:

  • Begin conversations by affirming “We’re here for the sake of the kids.”

  • Make your goal to understand, rather than to persuade.

  • Choose your issues carefully. Is it really about the child, or about your need for vengeance?

  • Ask sincere questions: “What do you think we should do?” “How do you feel about this?”

  • Give your full attention to the other person. Don’t plan your response, interrupt, blame or accuse the other person.

  • Communicate like an adult both verbally and nonverbally, even if the other person doesn’t. (80% of communication takes place non-verbally!)

  • If communicating with the former spouse is particularly difficult, consider mediation.

  • Pray before the meeting, and pray afterward.

  • Do away with childish thinking and reasoning.

  • Take every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5). Feelings of stress or anxiety might indicate some runaway-thoughts that need to be reined in.

  • Express emotional thoughts to God before expressing them to someone else.

  • Confess your thoughts to a trusted and objective friend.

  • When negative thoughts consume you, redirect. Choose to think on things that are pure, true, beautiful, and righteous (Philippians 4:8).

Be Dependable

1 Cor. 4:2 “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” Parents are stewards of the children God has given them, and God holds each steward accountable for their care. To be a dependable parent:

  • Fulfill obligations—legal and otherwise—in a timely way, without hassle, and without using them to manipulate the other parent.

  • Respect the court ordered purpose of the support. Offer to give a periodic account to the other parent of how the funds are used to care for the children.

  • Plan regular meetings by phone or in person, so that both parents stay informed of issues concerning the child.

Be Respectful

Phil. 2:4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Walk into most any public school classroom, and one of the rules posted for the class and the teachers to follow will be “Respect each other, and respect yourself.” In other words, value others and value yourself. After a divorce, valuing the former spouse is often the farthest thought from our minds. But it is something we need to do, because we value our children, because of the long-term relationship we still will have with their other parent, and because every person has value and worth in God’s eyes.

  • Respect the need of the children to have the other parent in their lives

  • Respect the other parent’s right to be involved in decisions and events concerning the children.

  • Respect the fact that parenting is a difficult job no matter the circumstances. All parents make mistakes.