Sometimes the ParentLife staff gets questions from readers that we do not feel qualified to answer. But we are blessed to work with many experts who are very qualified to answer difficult questions. One of those experts is Dr. Linda Mintle, our monthly columnist for "Real Life Solutions" (pp. 44-45).
Not long ago we recieved the following question from a reader:
"My husband and I have a dilemma we want help with. We have been married for almost 10 years. He has two beautiful girls from a previous marriage. They are 12 and 10. We have many issues with his ex-wife and would like some advice."
We were able to forward this reader’s letter and specific questions to Dr. Mintle. Maybe her suggestions will help you with a difficult stepparenting situation you are in.
You are experiencing the type of issues many do when a divorce occurs with children in the picture. The two households often clash in their values and ideas about raising children. You really have three options.
- Set up a time to meet with your husband’s ex and explain your concerns. See if you can negotiate some of these issues on a case by case basis. Divorce doesn’t mean discussion with the biological parent ends. In fact, it often takes more time to work through issues because of the divorce. If you approach her in a nondefensive way, she might work with you.
- If she seems uncooperative, you can go to family counseling and try to get her involved or get help with how to respond to her. Now you are engaging a third party who can lend weight to your concerns.
- You can pursue legal intervention, documenting your concerns for the children and challenging custody. Some states have Parent Coordinators who come along side families and work through these issues without involving the court.
All these options require some cooperation on her part which doesn’t always happen. Regardless, you should talk to your children about your concerns. Your voice will be important as they grow up regardless of what she does. If at any time you think the girls are being harmed, seek legal counsel or call your local mental health line.
The fallout of divorce is usually on the children, and parents spend years trying to deal with these difficult issues either directly with the ex or using therapy and legal services. I wish there was an easier way. But God is with you and will give you guidance as well. Prayer goes a long way and people can come into the lives of your children that also can influence for the better. Keep praying that God gives your children those opportunities. Pray your husband’s ex that her heart will return for the things of God she once knew.
– Dr. Linda Mintle
Do you have parenting issues or questions you need help with? We would be happy to help you get the answers you need from one of our parenting experts. E-mail your question to firstname.lastname@example.org.