Adult children won’t share time with stepsiblings

Blended families with adult children have asked about what is fair when it comes time to spend holidays with then children. Do you spend equal time at each child’s house?  Do they all come to your house?  What if the stepsiblings don’t get along?

Blending families is difficult.  It doesn’t matter if the kids are young or adults- it’s difficult to figure out what’s the best way to treat everyone fairly. The first question would be- How do you keep everyone happy?  Answer:  You can’t keep everyone happy all of the time. So- if you can’t keep everyone happy, you have to start with some basic principles and make your family event decisions based on these principles.

Marriage: when you and your spouse married, the two of you became family- husband and wife.

Center of the marriage and center of the home: when you married- the two of you became the center of this new blended family. You are the mom and dad in your home (whether your kids are adults or not.)  Each of you should be respected by the kids (of any age) as the mom and dad in this home.

New relatives: you accepted his kids as family (because you married him) and he accepted your daughter as family (because he married you.)  This also means that your children have new relatives too- new stepparents, and stepsiblings.  It doesn’t matter if they like these stepsiblings or stepparent; they still have new family members and should treat them with kindness and politeness.

Summary: So, if you put you and your spouse in the center of the family- you are making your marriage a priority. It does not mean you ignore the kids, it means that you parent the kids together and make decisions about your entire blended family together. As long as you keep your marriage strong and keep your main focus on your spouse, it will be easier to work through these tough decisions.

How much time should be spent at each child’s house? 

That’s up to you and your mate. If the center of your blended family is you and your husband, that means the majority of events should happen in your home.  Your home should be the “home base.”   If it’s difficult because your adult children have young children in their home, and it’s hard for them to travel- then you take turns- visiting at different homes, on different holidays –but not focusing on one particular home, unless all the kids (biological and step) agree it’s a good place. If you need an exact answer- then possibly it should be 50% of the time in the homes of the wife’s children, and 50% of the time in the husband’s kid’s houses.  But- this answer isn’t for everyone. The decision should be made between you and your spouse. Your children, even though they are adults- are part of a blended family.  When these adult children married, you accepted their new spouses as family members, even though they were only in-laws. Stepparents and stepsiblings are also family “by law” just like in-laws. You will be parents your whole lives. It’s your responsibility to teach your children to accept their stepparent and stepsiblings the same way you accept their new spouses.  You are family- a blended family.

This will involve some focused time with you and your mate, figuring out what’s best for your family.  Before you talk to your adult children, make sure you both agree on some basic principles for future holidays and present a united front to the children.

Shirley Cress Dudley is a licensed professional counselor and nationally certified counselor with a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Counseling, and a master’s degree in Education. She is the founder of The Blended & Step Family Resource Center- which offers coaching, ebooks, newsletters and more.  Her website
is:  www.blendedandstepfamilyresourcecenter.com Shirley has a passion for helping blended families grow strong and be successful.

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