This is the sixth post in a multi-part series on practical steps parents can take to reduce the negative impact of separation and divorce on children. These blog posts are based on the book “Kids First: What Kids Want Grown-Ups to Know about Separation and Divorce” written by the staff of the Kids First Center in Portland, Maine. In the last post we talked about how to approach dating a new relationships with your kids. In this post, we’ll discuss advice for blending families.
It is only natural for you to hope your children and your new significant other get along. However, relationship building takes time and you invite conflict if you expect instant bonding between them. Keep in mind that your kids did not choose this new situation and it’s unrealistic to expect them to automatically be happy with it.
How you, your former spouse, and your new love approaches relationship building has a profound impact on the outcome. If step family relationships are allowed to develop at a pace that is comfortable for all those involved, then caring between step relatives has a greater chance of developing.
Going from the original family structure to being a divorced family to becoming a blended family is a lot of change for kids to assimilate. Even insightful children struggle to understand and cope with the feelings all this change brings about. Following are some situations that commonly arise in this process. Knowing about potential areas of conflict in advance and thinking about the best way to handle them can help you quickly identify and process them with your kids.
Changes in birth order of the stepsiblings may have a particularly disruptive effect on kids. For example the oldest child may no longer be the oldest in a blended family. As the oldest, they may be used to having a certain sense of responsibility for younger siblings and there may be conflict when they find themselves in the role of younger sibling. Talking with your kids about how they feel about the new family structure will go a long way to reducing conflict.
A New Addition
A new baby in the family may be a joyful event but also adds a layer of complexity. If not handled properly, kids from a previous relationship may worry that the parent will love the new baby more than them. Talk with your kids before the new baby is born to see if they have this concern and discuss what you can do to show them they are loved just as much.
If the custody schedule is set up so that kids spend significantly less time at one parents home, they can feel like outsiders. They might be anxious because the day-to-day running of the household is different than what they are used to. You can help them feel like part of the family by giving them simple chores, asking for their help with a project, talking with them about activities and doing things as a whole family.
The Left Behind Parent
Sometimes children resist a relationship with the new partner because they feel like they are being disloyal to their other parent. When parents help their children feel like they don’t have to protect the other parent, kids feel are more likely to be open to a relationship with the step-parent. Acknowledging that your kids may feel this way and saying positive things about the other parent will help reduce their feelings of disloyalty.
As you can see, there are many new situations that can potentially bring up negative feelings in kids. Stepfamilies that develop new family patterns while preserving some old customs are more likely to get along well. All of this takes time and a certain degree of planning. If you keep the lines of communication open with your kids and help them put their feelings into words, this transition will go more smoothly.
To learn more about how divorce mediation can help your case, contact any of our Divorce Attorney Mediators or Certified Divorce Financial Analysts at CT Divorce Mediation Centers. Divorce and Family Mediation and Collaborative Law are all we do. We have offices in Madison, New Haven, Cheshire, West Hartford, Glastonbury, West Hartford, and Windsor, CT. To find out more information or to schedule a consultation with our divorce experts, call us at (860) 986-1141.
DISCLAIMER:This publication is not meant to constitute legal, accounting, financial, investment advisory, or other professional advice. If legal, financial, investment advisory or other professional assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person such as CT Divorce Mediation center, should be sought.