Forgiveness didn't come easily after our divorce. The relationship remained tense, and our young daughters were often caught between the harsh verbal exchanges.
Then I remarried and assumed a new role as the stepmom of two children. Entangled with another ex — my husband's — it didn't take long for between-home hostilities to mount. Disagreeable attitudes and tense conversations flared. The unhappy faces of our children told a story we couldn't deny.
Exhausted and discouraged by the end of our first year of marriage, my husband and I began counseling. We were determined to create an atmosphere that allowed our children to move between homes without stress and conflict. As we sought solutions to our struggles, we landed on three methods to avoid mounting tension with ex-spouses and to help ease transition days for everyone.
Limit trivial conversations. When our kids moved between homes, we asked them to take responsibility for school projects, sports uniforms, band equipment or whatever they needed so we could avoid multiple trips or unnecessary dialogue. We wanted to reduce conversation between exes on trivial matters to allow for a more concentrated effort toward peaceful interactions on difficult issues.
Limit unnecessary interactions. We gave up attending every event or activity when a child's other biological parent would be present. We attended important functions to show our support but didn't insist on sitting through every game with an ex-spouse a few inches away.
Limit family activities and expectations. On transition days, we kept a relaxed schedule that didn't include extracurricular activities or other demands. If kids came back to our house on Sunday afternoons, we stayed home from church on Sunday evenings. If negative attitudes came with them, we allowed the kids extra time in their room to adjust. We gave them an opportunity to settle in with a home-cooked meal and a friendly environment, regardless of their demeanor and without pressure for a lot of conversation.
It's not always easy, but between-home battles can die down when we do our part to create peaceful exchanges. "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all" (Romans 12:18).