When you and your new spouse fell in love and decided to form a new blended family, you of course made the decision partly for the benefit of the children one or both of you bring to the blended family from a previous relationship. You gave it a lot of consideration, and came to the conclusion that since you will be happier, and perhaps more secure in yourself and able to be more giving to your children, it easily follows that the children will be happier and more secure, too.
Whose choice is it?
Whose choice was it to form the blended family? Who decided that merging their lives with their new step parent and his or her kids, now step siblings, was a great idea? Who assumed that step siblings of the same age, same sex or even the same interests would immediately get on like gangbusters? Who introduced a new step parent into their lives? Who made those choices? The short answer is, not your kids. And while you made your choices with them in mind, your choice to form a new family with people outside of their known universe likely feels just another change in the unsettled lives of your kids. No wonder they often balk at the idea of sharing a bedroom with visiting resident step siblings. No wonder they are less than loving toward their new step parent. After all, they may have just been getting used to not having your ex-spouse around, just getting used to a visitation schedule when you gave them an entirely new situation to navigate!
Everything is fine, everything is normal
An easy attitude to take is to pretend that everything is fine; that even though there is a new adult in their lives whom they are supposed to accept as a step parent, and they may have had to move to a new home or make room for step siblings; that nothing has changed. That even though one parent lives somewhere else, and the kids have to pack an overnight bag to see them; that things are just the same as before. Even the youngest of children understand that nothing is the same as before, and your insisting it is true can only serve to make them more uneasy. Kids of divorce and remarriage have already been through so many disappointments and losses that of course you want them to now feel loved, safe, and secure. You do not help by pretending that things are not hard, things are not scary, and things are not different. They are!
Helping kids in a blended family cope
The best things you can do to help your kids cope with the changes of divorce, or death, and now a remarriage have brought to their lives is to acknowledge their feelings. Talk with, not to, your kids, and listen to what they say. Also, listen to what they may have a difficult time articulating, by asking leading questions, and by giving them time to rephrase and rethink during conversations. Make it a point to be an active listener. This means that when they speak to you, you turn and face them, listen, and respond appropriately. If you want your kids to talk with you, you have to show that you will listen to what they have to say.
The truth is always the best policy
Try not to gloss over difficult times with your kids; let them know you understand they are frustrated, or sad, or angry, but that you and your new spouse, and their bio parent, are all trying your best to do what is best for them. Admit that the blended family situation is new to you, too, and that all of you are learning a new way to live. Be reassuring, nurturing, and comforting, and always let them know how much they are loved. Speak the truth, speak from a deeply loving and supportive place in your heart, and things will be easier for everyone.
Filed under: Blended and step family
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