Children: Helping them adjust

Adele Cornish, BSW

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With a lack of readily available resources, it’s easy to see why some couples think their blended family will function like an intact family where both biological parents live together.  But it doesn’t.  Divorce reorganises a family spreading it over two households.  The primary emotional blood ties remain the same, despite the change in structure and loyalties are continually tested.

Often pain is still lingering from the loss of the first family unit so these ties lead to a rocky road particularly for children who have been through two major upheavals in their short life.

Firstly children have to cope with the loss of their bio parent’s relationship and secondly the formation of the new blended family, both of which they have had little or no say in.  Anger can be a typical of children forced through such traumatic changes (see ‘How to Take the Grrr out of Anger’, a book specifically designed for children).  Fortunately these obstacles are not insurmountable and can be worked through, once they’re recognised and addressed.

Discipline is a great example of a common obstacle to blended family success

For some, feelings of guilt can make a parent reluctant to discipline their children.  They feel they’ve put their children through enough traumas (divorce or death of a parent) and want to protect them from more distress.  Basically, they just want their child to be happy, “They’ve been through enough already without us (parent/stepparent) getting down on them”. Sound familiar?  Or they fear their children won’t enjoy their time at your house and decide they no longer want to visit if they are disciplined.

This can have a flow on effect in the relationship between stepparents and children.

If you’re part of a blended family, it won’t surprise you to learn that very often stepparents believe their stepchildren are spoiled.  Unfortunately this can fuel resentment towards stepchildren.  It can also trigger guilt, “Why can’t I just love this child like my own”.   Meanwhile the biological parent becomes torn between trying to keep both their spouse and their child happy.  Despite this, all is not lost.  Blended families can and do work through these trials.   So how do you do it?

Click here to continue reading Part 2 of Helping Children Adjust