5 Ways to Simplify Shared Placement

Shared placement can be tough.

It’s not something out of a fairy tale having to share your child half the time – often with someone you don’t necessarily admire, or who doesn’t parent the same way you do.

Laura Broullire of De Pere, Wisc., has experienced the ups and downs of shared placement. Her stepson is 14 years old and she’s had two biological daughters, ages 5 and 2.”My early years as a stepmom were marred by repeated, hostile encounters and phone calls between ‘us’ and ‘her,'” she said.

Eight years later, that is no longer the case. “It’s taken years of practice – not to mention hours of counseling! – to get to the place we are at today … One where we decline to engage in hostility, try to put past hurts behind us and enjoy every moment with our kids.”

If you struggle with a toxic shared placement situation, you know this is no easy task. Laura learned she had to let things go about her stepson’s other household. As stepparents and parents, the rules and routines at “the other house” are usually out of our control (definitely a challenge). Accepting this has led to peace of mind, for both me and Laura.

“I’ve learned to cherish things that parents with full placement might take for granted,” she said. “Parents who have their kids all the time can’t truly understand what a blessing this is. Having shared placement of my stepson has made me appreciate the everyday experiences I get to enjoy with my daughters.”

Shared Placement, Simplified

1. Establish a highly detailed placement schedule, either via court order or mutual agreement. Be very specific with regard to dates, times and locations of exchanges. You and your co-parent may have very different ideas about when Labor Day weekend begins and ends, or what “after school” means.

2. Stick to the schedule like glue. Plot out your days of placement on your calendar for the year and then make your vacation plans around it. Share your placement schedule with your families and friends so they know your plans in advance. Try not to deviate from the arrangement and have respect for the other parent’s time.

3. If you must communicate with your co-parent, keep communications short, sweet and to the point. Decline to engage in lengthy debates or arguments; approach written conversations with a businesslike tone.

4. If you continue to run into scheduling or other conflicts, consider one of the many co-parenting websites:

These sites help plan your child(ren)’s schedules, track expenses and maintain a health history.

5. Work mightily to keep your child(ren) out of the middle. Growing up is hard enough on its own. Don’t add stress to your kids’ lives by making them feel like they are stuck in a perpetual tug-of-war between their parents.

* * *

Thank you, Laura! Communication is so important in blended families. Having a realistic perspective helps, too. Laura made another excellent point in her response: Your kids are going to be okay. The shared placement schedule might not be ideal, but millions of kids live (and thrive!) in co-parenting situations. In my years as a step mom, I’ve learned my family is not as fragile as I first thought.

Knowing that helps me when things get tough.

Are you a stepparent (or do you know one)? I could use your help sharing this series on Facebook & Twitter. Thank you!

This is my stepparenting post for the month. If you want more blended family tips, check out my columns on Simple Marriage.

Photo by g-mikee

Check out Arrows by Melissa Gorzelanczyk, coming January 2016 from Delacorte Press/Random House. Visit her author site here.


1 Judi Schroeder August 9, 2011 at 9:19 am

Good morning, Melissa,

Many thanks for your excellent writers’ workshop last evening at the Brown County Library. The information you presented has been extremely helpful as I prepare a website based on my recently published book, FROM KIDS TO CORPORATIONS. I learned a lot about blogging and the marketing possibilities available online. I’m glad that I had the opportunity to meet you before I published my website!

If you would be interested, I would be honored to have you review my book. It applies common sense principles of leadership to the home, workplace, and classroom environments. I will be happy to give you a copy of the book in exchange for feedback.

I hope to hear from you. Have a wonderful Tuesday!

Warm regards,
Judith Suhr Schroeder

2 Melissa August 11, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Hi Judi – I just emailed you a response. Thank you for this kind comment!

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