Parenting Roles and Guidelines in Divorce~ Setting Rules/Common Ground

Step Parents’ Role

I have suggested that, in my experience, step parents need to be a strong support to the biological parent in regards to discipline.  They can set the rules of the home together and the biological parent carries out the consequences.  If the biological parent is not present, it is understood by all the family members that the other parent is in charge and can administer positive or negative consequences for behavior.  The biological parent then backs up the step parent in regards to those consequences.  It works best when BOTH biological parents and step parent(s) agree on the rules for behavior.  That way the child is getting a consistent message and is learning that manipulative and dishonest behavior is not tolerated in either home.

The step-parent(s) are to be the firm and loving back up for the biological parent.  They are not responsible for making the rules by themselves or carrying them out by themselves.  They are there to support the biological parent and reinforce the rules set for the household.

Biological Parents’ Role

Ideally, it is the biological parents’ role to set common ground goals and back each other up in regards to acceptable behavior from their children. This is not complicated.  Find common ground, set common goals, and rules for behavior, and agree to support the other in this endeavor.  There is no need for complicated conversations.  Just have the other parent’s back.  

Remember:  When the two parents are not working together for common goals and rules for behavior to reach those goals, there are behavioral issues that manifest in the children and reach a peak in the teen years.  


Adults’ Role

Furthermore, each adult in the child’s life has gifts and talents that he/she can share with the child.  Some are better at playing, some are better at teaching, some are better at listening, etc…  Each adult in the child’s life should be able to use those gifts and talents to ENHANCE the child’s experience.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a parent, step parent, teacher, grandparent, etc…  Use your gifts with your children.  

Children’s Rights
  • The right to be loved unconditionally by their parents ~”I love you no matter what and that will never change.”
  • The right to active attention by the parents
  • The right to have boundaries for their safety and growth
  • The right to be a child
  • The right to a safe place to live
  • The right to appropriate clothing
  • The right to nourishing food and access to physical play
  • The right to an education and training for a career so that he/she may be independent as an adult
Acceptable behavior, laws, rules, right and wrong and consequences for behavior are a natural part of the world.  Learning about those consequences will occur in a family that has all the conditions listed above in place.  Why?  Because the parents are ENGAGED.  They are aware of their children’s gifts AND weaknesses and are helping the child to become self aware and self regulated.  They are NOT giving their children “things” to make them happy.  They are giving THEMSELVES.


We all know instances where these conditions are not being met for many children in our nation and the world.  These are fundamental necessities for a child to grow up with self worth.  Thus, we have many issues in children today.

All other “things” that children have are privileges.  If you think of the market system in today’s world, you can set up a work for pay system where the child EARNS the privileges.


Suggested Rules for Behavior:

  • Treat each family member and others with respect
  • Be honest
  • Complete all homework and school assignments; prepare for exams; BECAUSE SCHOOL IS THEIR JOB!
  • Privileges need to be earned by completing school tasks and home tasks and by exhibiting signs of respect and concern for other family members and others in general
Best Case Scenario for Positive and Negative Consequences:
  • Consequences that are set by both biological parents and the step-parent(s) and are carried out consistently in both households
  • Family meetings to address concerns and modify consequences as the children grow and mature
  • Biological parents discussing behavior at both homes and each one addressing the behaviors and supporting the other parent when he/she is trying to be consistent in regards to negative and positive consequences
  • Telling the children in a joint meeting that all behavior is going to be addressed at BOTH homes and respect for family members respect is the most important code of behavior.
  • When there is a difference of opinion regarding consequences, the adults discuss this away from the children and come to common ground.  Children will take advantage of discord and strife among the adults.  
*When children understand that all the important adults in their lives are on the “same page”, the manipulative and dishonest behavior diminishes.  This issue arises in all kinds of family situations, not just blended families.



  • Adventures WITH the parents
  • Exclusive TIME WITH one or more parent
  • Time with friends (or play dates)
  • Shopping excursions
  • Electronics and gaming

Our society places far too much emphasis on gaming and electronics.  They are an easy baby sitter so that parents can DO what they need to do.  They are enjoyable and entertaining for children/teens.  Sometimes they are even educational.

However, they are placed LAST on the list of privileges because they do not enhance RELATIONSHIPS.  RELATIONSHIPS are what give us support and make our lives meaningful.  Online relationships CANNOT replace the joy and involvement that real life experiences with other human beings gives us.  We need them desperately to have a sense of belonging.


So that brings us to the crux of the matter.  Our children need loving relationships with as many other human beings as possible.  “The more the merrier.”  Being present with our children and actively listening to them and their concerns is crucial in helping them feel like they belong and matter.  Playing WITH our children will enhance that relationship and make it grow and matter in those difficult teen years.  They will BE present for the parents as they age.  They will value the relationship.

What does all of this mean?  It means that if your goals for the children are the same, then you have common ground.  Build from there.  Respect each other and your differences, but work TOGETHER to help the children understand that you are a force to be reckoned with regarding BEHAVIOR and expectations.
Write down what the goals and rules for behavior are and have them posted in each household.  What are the goals?  Refer to Rules for Behavior.  


We write them down and post them because it’s easy to forget and go back to what we have always done.  If what we have always done works, then there is no reason to change.  However, if what you have always done is not getting the results that will reach the goals, then the behavior needs to change.  “If you keep doing what you have always done, you will keep getting what you have always gotten.”

May these words uplift you and help you make the changes that need to be made, accepting that change begins with US.  God bless you and your precious children! 

~ Linda Mappin, LPC/RPT


Confidentiality in Counseling

Confidential word cloud

Technology is so important in my counseling.  It helps me stay on top of managing my clients’ files and notes, the billing, scheduling, and communicating in a timely manner. What you should know as a potential counseling client is that your information should remain confidential and secure.  Some technology can put that at risk.

Examples of Insecure Transmissions:

  • Cell Phone Conversations
  • VoIP Phone Conversations
  • Texting
  • Non Encrypted Emails
  • FaceTime
  • Skype
  • Google Talk

Here are some questions regarding confidentiality to ask in your search for a therapist/counselor:

  • Where are my files kept?
  • Do you use encrypted email?
  • May I text you regarding appt. information or request for more information?
  • Do you conduct eCounseling over a secure site?

Did you know you also have the right to waive your HIPAA confidentiality when it comes to phone calls and emails?  Your therapist can have you sign a waiver if you are interested in doing so.  I would not recommend it.  Your information is very personal and uniquely yours.  In my practice I try my best to keep it that way.

~Blessings on your journey to wellness~