📌 This post is brought to you by Rebekka, author of the blog Pinecanvas. Rebekka is a blogger driven by dreams. She likes to inspire and motivate others to chase their dreams by sharing her journey in her blog.
In this Post:
- Coping in a Blended Family
- Be Sure and Don’t Rush into it
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Coping in a Blended Family
As we addressed in a previous post, blended families are a recent form of family. This new reality can seem confusing and complicated. Both for outsides and family members.
Once it was almost unthinkable for families to break up and start a new family. And when it did happen, it often meant that all ties were cut. The more break-up hurt parents, the less they wanted to interact with each other afterwards. The kid would stay with one parent and the other one would leave.
Times have changed a lot. We have come to understand that we shouldn’t be living together as just a facade. That hurts kids the most.
At the same time, we have realized that kids do need both parents, whether they live together or not. Parents just have to learn how to co-parent and set their personal feelings for each other aside.
Here are some important aspects you may find useful to cope and bond in a blended family.
The Whole Rollercoaster of Feelings
It’s not easy being in a blended family either as a kid or as an adult. There will be laughter and cries, jealousy and resentment. It’s a whole rollercoaster of feelings.
Smaller kids don’t understand what’s happening, but kids don’t like changes. Bigger kids who remember their parents living together will see you as the reason why they are not so anymore. The real reason doesn’t matter. If you go out of the picture, there is a chance in their mind.
If they are acting out it’s not out of hate, although it might feel like that at times. Always remember that they are little humans who are just discovering their feelings and how to manage them.
Give them time, and guide them to the understanding of what they are feeling and how they can approach those feelings. There isn’t only one right way. Show them options and let them decide. Kids are smarter than we think and the power of words works wonders.
Mistakes While Joining the Family
One of the most common mistakes in my eyes is to force the kid to call a stepmom or stepdad to a person they just met. “Mom” and “Dad” hold a deeper meaning for a kid. They are people who know them, who can and will help them in everything. They are meant to be a safe person they can turn to.
The stranger who they just met isn’t capable of that. Not at first. They may want and be able to one day but not right away. I’ve always corrected everyone instantly if they force kids to call me stepmom. I’ve also told the kids they may call me by my name if they like. No matter what anyone else thinks or says.
If someone says otherwise, send them to me, and I will deal with them myself. Only a few have come and asked why I allow the kids to call me by my name. And the answer is always simple – it’s my name. How we call each other in the family is between us to decide.
Discovering Different Visions
There is no better way to discover how similar or different your visions and beliefs are with your partner than raising kids. If you are joining a family, you have to accept their ways. Just as they have to respect your ways. These were there before you met and if you try to change them, there will be resistance.
This won’t mean you have to accept everything as it is, but if something bothers you first try to discuss it with your partner on private and neutral grounds. State your concerns about it and why you would prefer it differently. If you came to an agreement to change, let your partner talk with their kids. This goes both ways!
And yes, in a blended family the terms your/mine/our kids flow around. And even after years together, pure biology will still be a place. If there are several sets of kids it might get confusing, but there will always be certain areas where you may share your opinion. There will be others in which you can’t influence the decisions in any way because those are for parents to make. Schools, medications, and other important parts… you may not always agree, but you have to respect their choice.
Introducing the Kids
When the family includes more kids – biologically yours and his/hers – it can be harder. I would advise discussing some important parenting ways beforehand, even before you let the kids meet. I also would advise introducing kids separately with you and after that bringing in the kids. Fewer strangers at once are less stressful. After you have decided where you going to introduce them, walk through it in your mind. What is allowed/denied for yours and for his/hers?
Even as simple as ordering a drink can become a problem when one is strictly against sugar drinks or soda and the other one allows everything. Meet on neutral grounds to skip a “homecourt advantage”. In this difficult time, no one involved should feel superior to others.
All the kids should be seen and treated as equals, or as equal as possible. It’s fine if ones have more things prior, but what is allowed to them while together should be equal. This also includes if you go somewhere with a spending money option (e.g. games arcade). Agree ahead of time how much money they get, or there might be bullying of “I got more”. Every parent believes that their kid isn’t capable of bullying, but where do bullies come from?
You are not my…!
There is no antidote or vaccine for kids’ outbursts. When they say You are not my mom/dad, they are stating a fact. And that’s how it should be seen. This isn’t an argument or a reason not to respect or misbehave, it is just a fact. It may hurt, but accept it in advance.
The only slightly calming answer for that I have figured out is agreement.
No, I am not. But for now, you are here with me and I am responsible for your wellbeing. We can discuss it with your parent if you calm down.
When they know their parent wouldn’t approve also, they don’t want to. And if they want to call and each explains their side – and accepts the outcome.
Besides kids, there is one more big issue to deal with in the blended family. The ex. You have to accept and make peace with the fact that your partner’s ex is and will be a part of your life and sometimes has the power to blow up your plans. Kids will talk with the ex, and your partner will talk with the ex and hang out. There will be occasions where you aren’t welcome to join or even allowed.
So if you have issues with jealousy, a blended family may not suit you. Because with kids involved they have to be together and talk with each other, even if they might not like it. There are school events and family events that are at least at the beginning reserved only for them. After a few years that might or might not change. It depends too much on the people involved and their willingness to accept each other.
Preparing for the Future
I don’t think or suggest being best friends or even friends with the ex.
But it is beneficial to work out a way to be polite and communicate when needed. Because when everything works out, kids grow. In the future, there will be events like graduation, engagements, weddings, childbirths, etc. All of you want to be present. When it’s only one or another, that ruins the kid’s event. They will have to choose which one can be there and miss the other one.
In these events, if everything else fails just repeat to yourself:
This is about the kid. Not me. Or the ex. It’s about the kid.
Be Sure and Don’t Rush into it
Being part of a blended family can enrich your life in so many ways, but it does require work, talking, and honesty. The rewards are there too though.
When sorted out, a blended family can be a great extra security network for everyone involved. The main thing is to be sure of your relationship before bringing the kids into that relationship.
If you rush into it and turn kids’ lives and mental balance off, just to quit after the first fight, they will be hurt too. You are not the only one who gets hurt. If they have taken you in and accepted you when you leave it may cause a permanent bump in their mental health and well-being. They often get hurt even more than adults.
Don’t rush it and be sure, that you are willing to be in it. That you can accept:
- the differences,
- your partner’s past looking back to you every day,
- dealing with the ex,
- changing your plans because of someone else
Be sure you are not hurting yourself and discarding your well-being by trying to blend two different families. Also, be sure that your partner is up for all that too.
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