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When dealing with children in step-families, it is important to remember that blended families are always created after a loss. The child has experienced either a divorce or death of a parent. Even in cases when a parent was not previously married, the assumption is the child will welcome the new spouse with the same enthusiasm as the smitten adults. Not so- as the sole recipient of the single parent’s affections and attention, the child experiences loss as now  he/she has to “share” that parent with another adult.

When a blended family is created it is important to remember that the children’s acceptance and trust will not always occur on the same timeline as that of the adults. In fact, it rarely will.

 Here are 10 things children want their step-parents to know.

1. We aren’t going to love you right away. Please don’t expect that. We didn’t marry you. We didn’t choose this even if we like you. I know you are both enamored with your new relationship but don’t assume we are too. We may still be hoping for reconciliation of our divorced parents or grieving for the deceased one.

2. Don’t assume you have the same rights as our parents to discipline us. Give us some time to get to know you and trust you. We may need a lot of time (maybe even need a few years) for this relationship to develop. Don’t try to be our boss/disciplinarian/parent. If you push too hard, you will push us away.

3.  We are going to need time to believe you are here to stay. We have lost our family as we knew it and know that some things don’t last forever. Give us time to trust you are going to hang around.

4. Don’t make us call you “dad” or “mom”. Let us call you whatever we are comfortable with. A title does not make a relationship.

5. We are adjusting to going back and forth between two houses. Give us time to acclimate when we come to see you. Just like when you come home from work, you need some time to unwind, give us a little time to do the same thing. While two sets of parents, houses, and relationships can be interesting and even fun, it can also be incredibly overwhelming and chaotic. We need time to transition every time.

6. We know you love each other, but we are a little uncomfortable with the two of you hanging all over each other. We still wish our parents could have been so affectionate and caring, so it makes us uncomfortable and sad. Also, please be quiet when you have sex: it is weird to hear that stuff.

7. About your kids- like you, they are new to us and we are getting to know them. Please consider how our role changes in each family. For example, in one family I am an only child with my own room. Here, there are other kids to deal with. I now have to share a room with a little kid and baby-sit. This change in status and relationship is confusing and takes some time to adjust to.

8. We don’t have a problem with your rules. We don’t even have a problem with them being different than in our other home. After all, we have different rules everywhere-school, church, camp and we adjust fine. Please though, keep the rules consistent, make them reasonable and don’t assume we know them.

9. I need you to remember that you are not my parent and so certain rights do not apply to you. For example, our mom goes through our computer history and phone log on a regular basis. While we are not crazy about this, we understand she is concerned for our safety. Even though you may have the same concerns, when you do it, we feel you are snooping and invasive. So, when you cross the line, we will get mad and remind you, “You are NOT my mother(father)!”

10. Please don’t bad mouth my “real” mom or dad. You may not like them. You may be angry about money, visitation or a bunch of other stuff. We don’t really need to know. When you say nasty things about our parents, we are going to pull away from you. They are still our parents and we are a part of them. Even if we know they did some bad things, we still love them and will defend them.

 

 

Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC  is the author of From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce. Now available in Kindle format for $9.99. For a limited time it is available to borrow for free!! Click here for more information and to purchase or borrow.

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6 Comments

  1. CJ Golden on the 23. Jan, 2012 remarked #

    When Joe and I got married 20 years ago our children were older – the youngest being 17. We are fortunate – they all like each other, their own children like and love each other as cousins. There is no distinction among grandparents nor aunts and uncles. How fortunate that we are a beautifully blended family. I know this isn’t always the case and I count myself among the fortunate to be in the midst of such a beautiful family relationship.

    • admin on the 23. Jan, 2012 remarked #

      I am sure you both worked very hard to make this happen. Happy blended families like all relationships take work and patience!

  2. Darlene K on the 23. Jan, 2012 remarked #

    You both must have done a great job communicating to your children. In my situation my spouse was afraid to deal with hostilities and potential rejection from the teen-aged girls. I can’t stress enough how vital those communications are, it has long term effects on the new relationships when those conversations don’t happen.

  3. Nancy on the 25. Jan, 2012 remarked #

    Hi Donna, Love your blogs. Is there anyway to make them more printer friendly? Would like to print just the essay in a larger, bolder print. You know, nice and pretty. Maybe it’s my own tech difficulties I have to overcome, but I can’t get a good copy and these essays would benefit some without computer access.

    • admin on the 25. Jan, 2012 remarked #

      I do not know but I will get the answer to your question. Thanks for the kind words!

    • admin on the 26. Jan, 2012 remarked #

      I researched your question. You can copy and paste the blog on a windows document.
      Please remember this site is copyrighted and therefore cannot be copied and distributed used without permission of the author. If you are making a copy for yourself, a client or a friend, then please feel free to make a copy. In all cases, due to the copyright law, make sure to include the author’s name and byline. As always, you can forward my website to others that you think might be interested. Thank you! Donna

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