Children of divorced and blended families get two of everything – two birthday parties, two sets of Christmas presents, two parents, two families, two homes and bedrooms, two sets of rules and expectations, and two schedules; with the ability to juggle between their two homes. It can be both rewarding and frustrating for the children and their families. Minimizing any conflicts between the parents will allow the child to have a more successful transition into their new life of having two of everything.
Children in divorced and blended families need a relationship with both of their parents. At times, children may feel torn between their parents, but need to be reminded that both of their parents love them and did not divorce them. There are many important things parents can do to ensure that their children feel loved and accepted by both parents and to assist in minimizing any conflict between the parents. Parents should encourage a positive relationship with the other parent, as the child needs both parents, and refrain from saying negative things about the other parent. To a child, hearing something negative about one of their parents is like hearing that half of them is “bad,” as well. Parents can assist their child in feeling more secure by keeping a unified front, being civil and polite to each other, communicating in a positive manner on things that are important to the child, and making sure the child remains the child without taking on adult roles and responsibilities.
Divorced families become blended families when one or both of the parents remarry or have a significant other relationship. During this transition, children need time to adjust to their new family. Parents can assist this transition by allowing children time to build a relationship with their stepparent at their own pace, discussing and defining the new family roles and expectations, and giving the child time alone with their parent.
By Melanie Torno, MS LPC QMHP