With any divorce -especially when children are involved, everyone has to deal with 2 separate households. Hence, the “Modern Family”.
Our discussion today is about living in the modern family while blending children. This is not as easy as “The Brady Bunch”.
If parents would realize divorces are more traumatizing when they are NOT amicable, kids would not have such a difficult time adjusting. With battling spouses, kids are are put on the defensive. Often times being stuck in the middle-children are forced to take sides. If any of you are in the middle of a divorce, please do whatever you can to keep your emotions and kids out of it.
As both a Mother and Spouse in a modern family, I struggle to put into the words how challenging it can be for children. I (Monica) started having children in my early 20’s, while Jay started in his late 30’s. I left my ex after 17 years of marriage and my kids were (at the time) 14, 12, and 8 years old. Jay and his ex separated/divorced when his kids were a mere 1 and 3 years of age. I have to be honest with you, the younger the children the easier the adjustment on the kids.
Older children have grown accustomed to “their” life. They know the habits of their respective parents. Children’s acceptance/reaction will depend on how the split is for the parents. When you have a weaker (victim) spouse, the older children tend to side with the weaker parent believing they need more support. Often times the weaker spouse instills parental alienation in the children using passive aggressive techniques.
I have an ex who was a real beta male in our relationship. This ‘man’ said to me at the mediation table, “You left me to fend for myself”. No lie. My middle son has not spoken to me for 2 years siding with his Dad. He refuses to have a relationship with me because I have moved on with my life. My oldest son has learned to use his father’s passive aggressive techniques to manipulate those around him. He continually refuses to take responsibility for his actions at 18 years of age. My 12 year old daughter has had to deal with many adjustments. She hates being caught in the middle and has admittedly not allowed herself to get close to Jay because she believes it would harm her dad.
Conversely, Jay’s girls who are now 6 and 4 are very well adjusted to our blended family and are overall happy children. They enjoy being around me and love to call me their bonus mom. Jay and his ex communicate about their children and don’t use them as bait for arguing with one another. The girlies (as I call them) want everyone to be part of the family. They are very accepting and want to be included in events and outings. Being so young, they don’t have the judgements/habits of my older children.
In all honesty, much depends on what is being fed to your children. Using religion or other tactics to make kids feel guilty about being happy in a blended family is simply abusive. Because Divorce is so difficult for children, it is important for adults to be mature throughout the process.
Here are some helpful tips we recommend when trying to blend families:
- Don’t expect your children to accept the other person right away. They must, however, respect your mate.
- Have the “bonus” parent be more of a supporter rather than a disciplinarian from the onset to establish some kind of a relationship prior to a “parenting” relationship.
- Do things together (other than amusement parks) to establish familiarity within the family.
- Spend one on one time with your own individual children to ensure they know they are not being left out
- Create a loving environment for the children so the children don’t have to worry about another split
- Don’t attempt to compete with your counterpart. Focus on what you like about your counterpart
- Act lovingly toward your bonus children. You may not like them and that is OK. As time goes on, the love may and can be established
- Don’t let your children call the shots. It is important for children to know who the parents are (you are not their friend).
- Let your children feel. Don’t coddle them. Stop helicopter parenting your children. It is OK for them to have disappointment.
- Focus on each other as a couple. Take date nights and get away for weekend excursions. Foster your relationship.
Side Note: While in the middle of my divorce, the court mandated counseling for my children. We found an amazing counselor who was great with the kids. She gave me some very sound advice I want to offer to anyone reading our blog.
As a parent, you have 2 main jobs:
1-Provide security for your kids (clothe and feed them and make sure they have a roof over their head)
2-Make sure they Respect You, Themselves and Others.
She said if I do those 2 things, there is a good chance my kids would LIKE ME as they got older. She also said parents who are FRIENDS to their KIDS fail miserably. In my opinion , therein lies the real issue. One of the biggest problems with society today is TOO MANY PARENTS want to be friends with their kids. Your kids don’t need more friends, they need parents.
I fell into this trap at the beginning of my divorce as I had feelings of guilt for leaving my ex. With his passive aggressive tactics, he had me convinced our kids would fall apart if we split up. I tried really hard to make sure my kids knew I was there for them. I attempted to give my oldest his space when all he truly wanted was to be disciplined and directed. I made many mistakes and realize now where I would have wanted to improve.
Above all, realize there will be tougher days than others. There will be breakdowns. Those breakdowns can lead to some amazing breakthroughs as long as everyone involved is willing to learn from them.
Our Modern Family is beautiful. I love my biological children and my bonus girls. Each bring their own unique gifts to our lives. I am grateful for the lessons each is learning through these adjustments. I am confident they will be better in the years ahead because of our blended family.
At the end of the day-Love your kids…they grow up so fast.
Be The Best YOU at any age!