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Ron L. Deal

This is a deleted section from The Smart Stepfamily Revised and Expanded Edition by Ron L. Deal (Bethany House Publishers, 2014). Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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An Open Letter to Co-Parents

This letter is about your children and the invaluable role you will play in bringing healing to their lives. You see, since the moment you and your ex-spouse informed them of your impending divorce, your children have been in a transitional crisis. How well they recover from that crisis has a lot to do with each parents continued involvement in their life and the level of cooperation between homes. Whether you are the custodial parent or the noncustodial parent, you play a vital role in the emotional adjustment of your children. Consider the following empirical data:

Children successfully adjust to the ending of their parents’ marriage and can fare reasonably well if (1) the parents are able to bring their marital relationship to an end without excessive conflict; (2) children are not put into the middle of whatever conflicts exist; and (3) there is a commitment from parents to cooperate on issues of the children’s material, physical, educational, and emotional welfare.

It is this last point that I am emphasizing here. Please understand that I am not necessarily asking you to reconcile with your former spouse. However, it is very important that you and your ex-spouse separate the dissolution of your marriage from the parental responsibilities that remain. In other words, while your marriage has ended, your role as co-parents has not.

I do realize, however, that many ex-spouses have great difficulty cooperating about anything, let alone the nurture and discipline of their children. But that does not absolve you of the responsibility to try—perhaps even harder than you did on your marriage. After all, your children deserve your best effort.

If necessary, perhaps a trained family therapist can help you and your ex-spouse negotiate your co-parental arrangement. Whatever the case, please, for their sake, assume the responsibility of being involved in the lives of your children.

Please understand, this letter is not about casting blame, nor is it intended to add to your level of guilt. It is simply an earnest plea that you offer your children the most valuable resource you have—yourself.