Parenting. What a journey! Sometimes, it’s the greatest journey I’ve been on; other times, not so much. It’s just really, really hard. Are you with me on that one? Sure, there are moments of joy and times where I feel like I am rocking this thing, but then there are moments of real struggle. My own sin comes out, and I want things my way.
Foster parenting only increases my desire to want my own way as I try to navigate parenting with my child’s biological parents. There’s friction and stickiness when our ideas of parenting differ—and they do. We have different thoughts about what’s best based upon what we know, and we have to work to figure out what we’re actually going to do.
Sometimes, it would be easier not to think about these other parents—but that is not the heart of Jesus.
We must press on for the sake of our children.
Everyone’s journey is a little different. I can respect that. You might not be able to connect with your child’s biological parents in the same ways as someone else due to safety concerns, proximity issues, or a number of other factors. Whatever the case, though, I do believe there are things we can all do to respect our child’s parents.
These people are so important to the child you are caring for. Therefore, they should be important to you, too. Even when you don’t feel like it, you can choose to respect and love your child’s biological parents. And just a side note—that doesn’t mean you always have to agree with their decisions.
We’re dealing with brokenness—a broken system and a broken family—and that is not easy, my friends. This co-parenting relationship isn’t going to be perfect. There will be ups and downs. Focus on enjoying the journey—the good, bad, and hard.
I don’t have all the answers on how to do things right, but for now, here’s what I’m learning about developing a partnership in parenting.
Remember, we all have a story.
It’s easier to see your child’s parent as a partner when you know their story. Be intentional to ask—not in an intrusive way, but in a way that invitational. Remember getting to know someone takes time. Most likely, this will not happen overnight, but willingness to build a relationship starts with seeking first to understand the other person without judgment.
Start small and grow.
It’s good to acknowledge that this relationship is a little different than other relationships in your life. You are working within a system. You have to stay within that system if there are rules and guidelines set. If you have the flexibility to establish your level of communication, start small. Establish what you’re willing to allow and what you’re not. Remember, you can always give more—but it’s extremely hard (sometimes impossible) to pull back. If a parent asks for more from you, whatever it may be, take time to process, pray, and seek counsel from a spouse or trusted friend. Just as life changes, boundaries change. Understand it is okay to change things depending on your current season of life.
Share everyday moments.
For many parents, it is so hard not to be “the parent” every day. They are no longer the ones meeting their child’s needs. While it seems unglamorous, this is often the thing that is missed the most. Find your way—based on the boundaries you established—to include your child’s parent into everyday moments that make them still feel like a parent.
- Send pictures and stories of their child’s experiences to help minimize the feeling of “missing everything.”
- Encourage them to purchase necessities for their child, so they can continue to feel like the parent.
- Ask them their thoughts and opinions on routines, books they want to be read to their child, or activities they wish their child could participate in.
Be a coach.
If parents are unaware of best practices in parenting, it’s okay to share those things with them. This is always best done in relationship. When done right, this may open up the opportunity for your child’s parent to willingly explain to you that they need help and support. Offer what you’ve learned with humility and grace. Ask for their thoughts on parenting best practices too! Be willing to learn from each other.
Above all, pray.
Your relationship with your child’s parents may go far, but also understand, it may never go anywhere. Through it all, be an example of Jesus by loving well and praying for your child’s parents. Trust the Lord. His very capable hands are upon your child’s life and this relationship. And remember to give yourself grace, because this is a difficult journey.
Jillian has a passion for reaching out and loving others. She began serving with TFI in college after learning more about the foster care community. Jillian is passionate about seeing the Church mobilized to serve and step into the lives of those affected by foster care. As a new foster mom, she is currently relying on donuts, coffee, and JESUS!
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