The Peaceful Exchange Program primarily handles Level three co-parenting (the exchange between homes) and that program has massive power to positively impact Level One and Level Two Co-Parenting. (You can learn more about these three levels by going to the previous blog
In this program we do not use the exchange between houses to “dump” on the other parent. Instead, we recognize our children have been waiting to see their other parent all month, all week, or all day.
The exchange can be light hearted, smooth and joyful for the children, for their sense of emotional safety. For a child to not have to endure waiting around for mom and dad to stop fighting so they may get their love tank filled more quickly by their other parent.
Is the exchange between homes the time or the place for working out adult issues. Or is the exchange between homes the time and place for the children to safely cross over the bridge from one home to the other? In the next 8 giant square blocks, Expanded Consciousness will lay some of the program out for anyone who may desire something softer.....
Mending Fences While Building Bridges: Biological Mothers
The exchange between homes is where the fence impacts the bridge and the bridge impacts the fence. We ask ourselves, how safe, nurtured and valued do we want our children’s memories to be? In each home -each woman knows what’s true. The children wake up excited. “Today is the day I get to see MY DAD! Dad wakes up whistling...”today is the day I get to see my kids!” There is this invisible love thread. How a mom and how a stepmom handle this excitement depends on so many things. The exchange begins before the exchange happens. It is in this seemingly insignificant moment where either woman can see and feel what her truth actually is. The invisible love thread excitement, how does that excitement land on either woman? Or the reverse. “I don’t want to go to Dads. I want to be with my friends! I don’t want to miss the fun with my friends!” And Dad...is still...excited...”I’m going to see my kids!” Within each family, anything is possible. What’s wild about this is...often mom’s won’t let a child make the choice to eat ice cream for breakfast because that wouldn’t be in their best interest but they will fight for their child to forgo a relationship with their own father. Then they get to say “You’re never there for these kids” but Dad...has always been...willing and whistling with happiness “Today I get to see my kids” Do we as mothers see ourselves?
Mending Fences While Building Bridges: Stepmothers
The exchange between homes is where the fence impacts the bridge and the bridge impacts the fence. We ask ourselves, how safe, nurtured and valued do we want our children’s memories to be? In each home -each woman knows what’s true. The children wake up excited. “Today is the day I get to see MY DAD! Dad wakes up whistling...”today is the day I get to see my kids!” There is this invisible love thread. How a mom and how a stepmom handle this excitement depends on so many things.
Stepmoms have access to the depression many fathers feel all week, every week unless or until...”Today I get to see my kids”
She’s been living in his depression via his dullness. In her mind...floating thoughts....“If only he was this excited about the fullness of his life”
“Grrr. Yes the kids are coming. Roll out the red carpet because now we will all have to bow down to the mini royals and I’m about to be converted into the slave cause the mini royals are coming for the weekend”
This one is no joke for stepmoms. No joke indeed. The issue...isn’t the kids. It’s the depression. The dull non excited part...
What will help lift the depression?
Mending Fences While Building Bridges: Supposed Abandonment
Ever wonder why a child who has both parents who love them severely and dearly feels abandoned by one parent or the other? Dad is there. He’s right there. All the time. Any time he’s needed. But for some reason...a child carries abandonment issues with Dad. What we discovered through this program was how often this exchange between homes has the power to remove that illusion for a child. Imagine the scene...Dads car is in the drive way. “He’s HERE! My Dad is HERE!” The child runs to Dad...after not seeing dad for any length of time.
Their eyes meet...Dad smiles. He’s in his heart...his arms open. The child runs into Dads arms. The hug feels amazing. Both Dad and child experience the physical reconnection filling up their love tanks. The world feels safe. Children are so excited to see their father they act like wild monkeys. Over the top. Which is the most natural, most unfiltered response to reconnection with the man they love so much. To feel seen, known, loved, nurtured, valued....the reconnection is solidified. Rather than mom and dad using the exchange to fight and solve adult issues. The focus remains pure. There is nothing getting in the way.....
Every exchange makes sure of it.
The program can be taken on at any level of commitment. It can be such that we just want the exchange to be a positive experience for the children and it can also be an incredible opportunity to heal some of the residue left on the un-mended fence which can damage the building of the bridge. The resistance to that bridge can be thick. If stepmom is in the car when Dad picks the kids up or not is not the focus. We no longer need that level of control. What we do instead is we witness. Is it Dad who gets out of the car. Can I see my child’s eyes light up when they see their father. Even with Stepmom in the car...am I seeing clearly it is their father who gets out of the care to welcome their own child with love onto the bridge. And how about stepmom. Being willing to sit in the car to allow father and children to reconnect. Peaceful movement. The child sees the family in the car who that child will experience shared family memories with. At the center of it all is Dad. You would be amazed at what mothers end up seeing once they allow
Forgive thy self. No matter what has already happened. Forgive thy self. For all the unglued moments. For all the times you forgot to truly put the emotional safety of the children first. You’re so not alone. So not alone
Divorce is hard.
Remarriage is hard.
Stepfamily life is hard.
Raising kids is hard.
Trying to do that from two houses is hard.
Make a new commitment. A new plan. Be intentional about what you want the children’s memories of their exchange between homes to be about. If you need to...email, text or write a note on all the logistical, practical information that is important for the other parent to have. Allow the physical reconnection to solidify as you observe your children’s experience with their other parent. Much of the time what mothers end up witnessing is that all the fears they have about stepmom interfering begins to disappear. They can see very vividly their child’s love tank is indeed being filled by their father. They feel the truth of it in real time. Oh, I can see and feel the truth as it exists. My children are being seen, valued and known by their father. I can....relax now.
repeat steps 1 and 2.
Forgive yourself and keep being intentional about it.
The invitation: Take what resonates with you, do what you want with it and ignore what is not workable in your reality. You are free, always. It’s your life, your moments, your heart, your family.
Much Love, Christina Marie The Bio-Stepmom Peace Negotiator
Christina Marie, dubbed the "Bio-Stepmom Peace Negotiator (aka Holistic Stepfamily Coach)
Expanded Family Magazine
Navigational Skills for Stepfamilies (the workbook)
Women In Stepfamilies Mini Book Series
Women in Stepfamilies
Whose Hair Is It?
How to Chill Out and Why
It’s Not Really About Hair
Remote Control: How to Stay Focused on What Happens
in Your Home and Why You have More Power When You do
He's Not the Dad You Want Him To be
How to Accept Who He Is
and Why That Helps Kids Accept Who They Are
Stories of Courageous Vulnerability
(Book with 40 authors from around the world)
Love Affair with Thy Self (The Movement)
Tender is the Heart: 16 Lessons of Love & Loss (coming out soon)