Friday, October 17, 2014
We are living in an age now where there seem to be more blended families than original ones. By 'blended', I am referring to reconstituted or second marriages or partnerships involving children from either or both parties. I am from a blended family. My parents divorced when I was a toddler and my brother was 4 years old. My father did not remarry for 10 years, but when he did, there were three children to the second marriage. Suddenly our Dad was not just 'ours' anymore.
It is no easy thing, being part of a blended family. Insecurity amongst the children is just one major factor. So, how can we better prepare ourselves and our kids for a smooth transition to a new family structure?
BONDING TAKES TIME
Studies show that it takes up to 7 years on average for a new family to be totally integrated.
An instant rapport with stepchildren does not happen quickly. As a step-parent, you cannot expect
children to call you ‘mom’ or ‘dad’ immediately. In fact, it may never happen. Sometimes children have been previously told negative things about their 'to be' step-parent, and this makes a relationship difficult to establish. Genuine affection and commitment only comes when trust and respect are built up between all family members.
CREATE A SECURE ENVIRONMENT
Kids of blended families need to feel they are being treated fairly and are valued by the step-parent. There is already likely to be a high level of anxiety and insecurity felt by the children, so reassurance is the most important aspect to get across.
a) Clear expectations within the new family unit (strong family values as well as
boundaries); the same rules for all.
b) Fair discipline from their own parent.
c) Structure and routine so they know what is happening, at least most of the time.
d) Incentives to do well. Kids always respond better to praise rather than reprimand.
e) Individual quality time. Initially with their own parent, but eventually with both
parents. This is a time for kids to talk about how they are feeling within the new
family unit. It is a time for parents to assure their own child that they are loved
just as much as they were before, but that you are sharing your love with the other
parent which is important for your relationship-building as part of the new family
CREATE A NEW FAMILY IDENTITY
Each child is having to fit into a different structure and age order. Your youngest may not be the baby of the family anymore. If you have more children, then your first children need to feel they are part of the new family identity.
Create a new family shield that represents each of you. Agree on a motto and let the kids design and draw the new shield. This way they can literally see that they are an important part of the new family.
Written by Sally Burgess
Forefront Families LLC
I heard this statement from a teacher recently.
"Kids who feel loved at home, come to school to learn.
Those who don't, come to school to be loved."
It is a very sad thing that the rules for teachers have had to be changed over the years. Decades ago teachers thought nothing of giving kids a big hug. Now, all this is frowned upon and teachers are discouraged from doing this.
Gone are the days of Mayberry and Walton's Mountain where there was always someone available at home to listen to kids' stories when they came in from school, to feed them fresh baked cookies and milk, and to kiss them better for the slightest hurt. We have become so busy with both parents working, shuttling kids from football practice to piano lessons and the like, that in the rush, a good old hug can get unintentionally left out of the equation.
What does a hug do for you? I can tell you what it does for me. It tells me that someone cares enough to reach into my personal space and not only touch me, but expend some good energy, putting their arms around me and giving me a really good squeeze. It bridges a gap. It touches my heart because, facing one another, chest to chest, our hearts really are beating together. Brief hugs are just snatches at closeness. They are not the same as a long, chin over the shoulder, back patting kind of hug.
What does it require to give a meaningful hug? It requires a decision to actively show affection towards another person. It means allowing someone into your personal space, making you more vulnerable. It requires time - a long, meaningful hug rather than an automatic half pie, slap on the back kind of hug.
Some people are really good huggers! Some don't like being hugged. Perhaps they have never been in such close proximity to another person or maybe they have had a negative experience where trust has been breached during a hug. They may have come from a family where openly-affectionate behavior was not regularly observed. I had a friend who was an 'A-frame hugger'. She was never comfortable being 'that' close to another person, so she only let arms and shoulders touch. Since we were very good friends we hugged her so many times that she eventually reciprocated and enjoys the closeness now.
Hugs and cuddles say so much more than words. The human touch is most missed when people lose their spouse. Our kids need to feel our loving touch much more than we realize. It gives them a feeling of security knowing they are valued, accepted and cared for.
Be an everyday hugger.
Written by Sally Burgess
Forefront Families LLC