When we acknowledge a child’s feelings, we do him a great service. We put him in touch with his inner reality. And once he’s clear about that reality, he gathers the strength to begin to cope. ~Adele Faber
I am often asked for advice on managing blended families. Most often the parents have concerns about disciplining children, or what to do when one parent has different rules/expectations than the other.
I am not so often asked about the effect on the children, but this is an extremely important element when two adults decide to combine their families. The adults love each other, and want to share their lives, and hope to create one bigger, happy family. The experience is often quite different from the perspective of the child.
After divorce, regardless of how much time the child has with each parent, it is generally quality time. A parent who no longer sees their child every day, typically wants to make the time together really count. Children may get more one-on-one time than when their parents were together.
Children like this, and quickly get used to it. They come to expect that they will get undivided attention from the parent, and that activities will be scheduled with just the child(ren) and the parent.
When families are blended, this tends to change, and the combined children are treated as a group. One-on-one time is often diminished or eliminated entirely, as the child is now competing for time with the new spouse and the new siblings. This is particularly difficult for the child who was used to being an only child.
It is wise to remember that this is a big adjustment for children, as they also have a new parent figure to get used to. Give them plenty of opportunity to talk about their feelings and any difficulties they may be experiencing, and do not be critical if they are having negative feelings.
Schedule regular opportunities to have that one-on-one time which is now more important than ever. If the child continues to have difficulty with the new arrangement, it is wise to seek professional counseling.
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