This is the first in a series about the most common and most detrimental challenges that the blended family faces.
I’ve been reading a bunch of tweets by blended family moms and stepmoms, which helps me get perspective on my own situation when times are tough. I’m amazed by the challenges some of these moms face, and the strength they have to move forward through adversity. But I can’t help but notice the plethora of articles and encouraging quotes out there directing women not to give up on their blended families. Many do–we know this by the divorce and separation rates, which are even higher in second and third marriages or partnerships where there are children from previous relationships involved.
What are some of the major pitfalls, and how can you manage them?
Big Battle #1: Your stepchildren and your children don’t blend well.
I remember the days before my kids met Todd’s kids. I knew it was a make-it-or-break-it issue: if they got along, we would continue on, if they didn’t, we would have a serious talk about whether it was wise to keep dating. But every relationship progresses differently, and conflicts can arise at different stages (early on things are smooth, but things get tense later). What can you do? This is where good parenting comes in. The biological parents must guide their children toward healthy, happy relationships with their step-siblings.
If I notice that one of my children is unkind to their stepsisters, or shows otherwise rejecting behavior toward them, it’s my job to help them along on their journey. I can’t ignore, it, pretend it’s not happening, or blame it on someone else. Hands-on parenting is key.
And notice I said “parents.” The ex plays a role in facilitating relationships, believe it or not. In my case, I would reach out to my ex and talk to him about the dynamic I’m seeing with our child, because most likely, expressions of anger/frustration/sadness would be erupting in other settings as well, and we could work together to uncover the cause and support our child’s growth. Keeping the air static-free between me and my ex is a priority for many reasons, including my need to co-parent with him.
But stepdad isn’t on the back-burner. He’s my go-to guy when it comes to talking through parenting issues. His insight is so valuable, because he is right there in the home, observing the challenges at hand. In our case, Todd would share his thoughts on what he’s seeing, and knowing his children best, would offer thoughts on how to lead the kids toward peace. Often, even when it looks like one child is the instigator, there are other things going on behind the scenes that lead to conflict, and it takes growth on both sides or change in the whole family to move forward. To do that, we both have to be on board as parents to lead the kids to a resolution.
Areyou able to talk with your partner about step-sibing challenges and work together toward solutions? How about your ex? Do the two of you debrief regularly about the issues and triumphs your children experience?