Let it go.
Just simply letting go is a continuous and arduous journey for myself and I’m sure most co-parents would agree. It’s so easy to get caught up in the nitty gritty of parenting and even easier to forget that we have limited control as parents especially when we are co-parenting children from different homes. Rules in one house don’t necessarily translate as a rule in the other house and values in one home don’t translate as high on the priority list as it does in the other home. Letting go is not an easy task. Some days it can come more naturally than others, but it’s a constant battle and requires reminders and regular check-ins with yourself to keep letting go of what you cannot control. It’s a different (and not the most natural) frame of mind for most people.
When your child or stepchild tells you something that happened in their other home that you might never allow in your own home…breathe. Pause and be grateful that your child is comfortable enough to share this with you. If it’s something you feel needs to be addressed either with your child or with your co-parent, take a beat, give it a few hours, a day, or several days and figure out what your stance on it is, why that is your stance on it, talk to you partner about it and make a plan about how to address it. More often than not I find that when my husband and I take a beat on the subject we find that we actually can just let it go without addressing it at all. When we address every and all things that come to be from different parenting styles we find that we are constantly attempting to ‘undo’ the parenting practices that we perceive to be wrong. We can’t undo them and they aren’t necessarily ‘wrong’, they’re just different. Ask yourself the most important question — is your child safe? If the answer it yes, then at the end of the day you’re probably fine to simply let it go and focus on controlling what you can control in your own home.
An example that regularly occurs in many co-parenting situations — one co-parent said no to purchasing a certain item for a child and the other co-parent said yes. Your child comes home and the first thing he or she can’t wait to tell you about it the new *blank* that mom or dad bought. What we try to practice is to take a breath, communicate that we are happy for her, and put boundaries on whether or not the item is allowed to be used during our parenting time (communicate this to both your co-parent and your child). Sometimes we say no to certain items unless my stepdaughter meets certain requirements — keeping her room clean for a period of time or staying on top of her chores etc. Even if the other parent buys her the item, regardless of meeting the requirements we had laid out, the item will only be allowed during our parenting time so long as she meets the initial requirements (bonus – it feels like a reward for my stepdaughter and since the item was already purchased by the other household we don’t have to spend any extra money). We can’t undo or prevent her other parent from purchasing certain items for her — we have only so much control in that area — so we focus solely on what is in our control and let go of the frustration that can come from these types of situations.
At the end of the day, letting all of these small things go, that aren’t really within your control to begin with, provides so much peace that you wouldn’t otherwise have. Don’t sweat the small stuff and don’t let them take up space in your day. Use your parenting time with your kids to connect with them instead of brewing over what happened earlier in the week at their other home and spend the non-parenting time connecting with your partner and/or yourself instead of brewing over what might be happening at their other home. In the grand scheme of life, those small things won’t matter, but how you continuously handle them throughout your child’s childhood will.