By Ileana Oxley M.S.
Blending families is not as simple as the Brady Bunch TV show portrayed it to be by solving all problems within an hour. Families have blended throughout history and it’s never been easy. But now, we can learn from experiences of others who have successfully parented a step- child or perhaps a teenager who thought he had no need of a step- parent.
Parenting is difficult enough without involving a step -parent. Raising children on your own is a monumental task and when we involve another person who steps into your life and home, children as well as teenagers often rebel.
- Feeling of Abandonment
Step – children may feel abandoned by the parent who left or the one they only see every other weekend, causing some step -children to ask themselves, “What right does this new person have to move in with my mom or dad”?
This may not be the case with very young children, but school age children who have experienced the pain of divorce or death of a parent may show deep resentment. These kids only want their biological mom or dad; so step -parents should not take this rejection personally.
Step -children usually do not want to follow house rules or respect the new step parent they view as an invader. They want a friend, not another parent.
- Looking Back at My Life
I felt unappreciated and often mad at my step- children for wanting their mom, even though she was the one who left. Now, I was the one taking them to school, cooking every night, talking with their teachers, entertaining them and taking them to doctor appointments. I was the one teaching the oldest how to ride a bike at the age of fourteen and encouraging him to go to his 8th grade dance.
In spite of all I did, they still wanted their biological mom. Not understanding my boys, I felt very hurt and one day blurted out, “I am not the one who left you, I am the one here. Can’t you see that?”
- Learning to be Positive
I learned, no matter how angry or disappointed one is with a child, to never speak a negative word about they’re absent parent. This should be considered in all relationships, whether blending a family or raising a family with one or both bio-parents.
When you -badmouth one parent, you’re saying something bad about the child, because that parent created the child. Children are resilient and will recognize what was going on later in life. There is no need to rush them to understand why one parent is not there for them now.
Talk to your children about how much they are now loved and appreciated. Talk about how wonderful they are. Never say anything in anger that will more than likely never be forgotten. Children, when they mature, will realize why they are in a different family from the one they were born into. Trying to rush this reality and sharing grownup conversations will never work. They will turn on you faster than lightning in a thunderstorm.
Children will believe what they want to believe in order to function and be okay. They have to live with themselves before wanting to live with you. They have to believe they were never the reason for the divorce or separation.
- Blending is Never Easy
Raising a family is one of the toughest jobs in the world and raising a blended family is even tougher when dealing with in-laws, ex-laws and outlaws. All blending families will eventually have to deal with his, hers, ours and mine. My boys had a difficult time minding me, because they did not want “me”, the step parent, stepping in telling them what to do.
- Strive for Understanding
Blending a family requires both parents to understand they are getting on an “emotional” roller coaster that pulls up to the station and takes off again abruptly year after year. My boys were on that roller coaster most of their lives until the time they left home.
The ride could have been a bit less traumatic if I could only have understood the dynamics of how to enjoy the ride instead of trying to coordinate and control the outcome. I was trying to become their constant teacher for every instance, which was not needed. My step -children already had a mom. What they needed was an understanding friend and love in spite of their rejection of me.
- Time is On Your Side
It takes time, but eventually they will come around and thank you for being there for them. It’s a process through which a long journey finds its way into their hearts, when they realize you are always there for them, no matter what they did or how unlovable they were at times.
By Ileana Oxley M.S.
Specialist – Arvon and Associates in Counseling