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Concept of a "blended family" sometimes set unrealistic expectations and makes all aspects of adjustment more difficult than they need to be.
People often think that you can blend 2 families into 1, you can't. This actually sets yourself up for failure. Healthy ones recognize that children from prior relationships have two families and do not blend solely into one family. Step families that try to ignore this reality are setting themselves up for failure. We are combined families, extended families, expanded families.
Step families can almost feel like a death sometimes because of all the changes that happen & the kids having no say in the changes made, end up acting out because they have no voice & their actions are their only way to let us know that they are unhappy, depressed or angry.
When 2 people divorce it causes adjustments, loss & changes because you have to separate from your old life & grieve. Everyone has to do this, the adults & the kids.
Adults do this because they are losing their wife/husband, it's the end of their marriage, their dreams of "happily ever after" are no longer, moving to a new house/area, life.
Kids do this because they are no longer going to see 1 of their parents as much as they used too, even though they may see them a lot, it's not the same, they notice the sadness & anger that their parents are feeling, their stability is gone, they have to also adjust to a move (change of school, new friends), and their idea of "happily ever after" is also gone.
As bio-parents, we often get angry that a new person is going to parent our kids (step-mother) & it can lead to our kids having this loyalty to the bio-parent & giving the step-parent a hard time. It's important that a child has permission by all parties involved to love the other biological parent & the step-parents if they want too w/ out feeling guilty.
When kids are part of 2 households, mom's house & dad's house, they often wonder where they belong & where do they fit in. Rules have to be set in both homes & it's usually best if both homes have the same rules, communication is key, obviously not all is the same but keeping things on the same page is best. Morals, values, etc. If you don't, kids can usually play the parents against each other & end up acting out more. If the parents are on the same page, communication wont be broken & the kids will be adjust back & forth from home to home better & wont feel tension. They'll know what to expect when they go from one place to the next. No surprises.
It's recommend that at the beginning, discipline come from the bio parent This means that parent and stepparent decide on the rules together but that the biological parent announces the rules and enforces the consequences. Later, after relationships have developed, the stepparent can become more involved. Adults also need to understand that there is a difference between "parenting" and "discipline." Parenting has to do with things such as nurturing ("I love you."), and appropriate boundaries but discipline has to do with consequences when values, boundaries and limits are not observed.
There is no legal relationship between stepparents and stepchildren. This is why our roles are unclear as a stepparent.
What this means is that we have NO legal relationship with our stepchild means that UNLESS we have written authority, we can't authorize emergency medical care, have access to school records OR sign important documents. You can have this granted by power of attorney for emergency medical care by the bio-parent if the bio-parent is okay with this. Most of the time, if the relationship is a good one, they will allow it & authorize it, if not, then this is something you will have to step back & allow the bio-parents to do.
In the end, if you need help & don't feel like things are going well, seek support, go to an SAA chapter support group, get family counseling, it's a good tool for everyone involved, and stay positive for the kids, don't bash the other parent(s), no matter how angry you may be at them. It's hard & you can do it when the kids aren't around, but trust me, if you talk negatively about the other parent(s) in front of the kids, you will only push the children the other way, it's the wrong thing to do. They will hate you for it when they get older for trying to sabotage their relationship w/ the other parent(s).
And last, no 2 Step Families are the same, so what may work for 1 family, may not work for the next, be open to suggestions. Sometimes the dynamics of a Step Family will be great in one situation but may appear strange to another Step Family, that's okay, again, no 2 are the same. The great part about it is that we are all here for support & can all give advice on our own families.
So are we Blended? Some may say "no"...some may say "yes"... I think I'd say yes because we're blending lives, and values, dreams, wants etc., but it's not as easy as putting things in a blender & setting it to "blend" if it were that easy, non of us would need this forum. Things would "BLEND" with ease & no one would need advice. I still like calling it "Blended"...
I love this post, Chantelle! You've said so many things that many of us fail to "get" not only in our blended family relationships but in the rest of our lives as well. Why is it with one family something works and with another it doesn't? Well, take it one step higher than that. Why is it with one child time out works as a form of discipline and with another it doesn't? Because we are all different! Each person brings to a relationship a unique set of experiences, expectations and desires that are theirs and theirs alone. To impose our own onto someone else simply by virtue of the fact that we have married one of their parents is neither fair nor reasonable...yet we do it. We also do that in every other relationship we have in our lives. That's why not all of them work. Step families are no different and to try to make each one conform to a given set of pre-set guidelines and rules isn't fair to the people involved. Each of us is "wired" differently to begin with. Even identical twins don't respond the exact same way under the same circumstances. they may be very similar--enough to be uncanny but they will never be completely identical in their responses to every given situation...yet we expect 4 or 5 kids coming together from two different families all of different ages to behave exactly the way we want them to and when they don't, we feel like a failure, we reject the child, reject the parenting of the child, reject the ex...we do everything EXCEPT what we should be doing--ACCEPT THE SITUATION AS IT IS! You're right...we're not "blended families" in the true sense of the word. if we were, not only would the children treat all of his or her parents and step parents alike, but we would treat our own biological kids just like the step kids and never show favoritism to any one of them! Heck, I can't even do that with my won bio-kids let alone my step kids! And added to this, if we were truly blended, we would also be blended with the ex's...after all they are a big part of the kids' lives! So imagine a truly blended family...two moms, two dads. several siblings all loveing each other and being respectful of each other and treating each other as complete equals...wait...that's not step-families thats STEPFORD-families! No thanks!
You're absolutely right. Divorce causes a lot of mixed feelings in kids. My own kids BEGGED me to divorce their father! They hated being a part of a family where the parents so obviously didn't even like each other, let alone love each other! They hated the fighting and bickering and seeing me cry...they wanted that divorce as much as I did! BUT, once it was done, they also wanted mommy and daddy back together and resisted every person that came into either one of our lives...until Tom. BUT...Tom's kids didn't have the same experiences so although Tom and I both thought that I would be accepted and loved by all the kids and that our kids would all get along, thqat hasn't proven to be the case. His oldest daughter loved me until it became apparent that I was not going to be like her mom and let her get away with being bratty and that I had rules. She's just now starting to like me again but it will NEVER be the same. His son Griffon didn't like me in the begining and wasn't sure what to think of me. I didn't yell and scream at him so how could he? He lives with us and the first time I told him I love him, he didn't know how to react. I have a great relationship with him now! If I'm going to the store, he'll ask to come along or I'll ask him if he wants to come with and then we TALK! He rarely sees his mother. NEVER talks to her about anything more than superficial crap. I have no doubt in my miind that he loves her...but he loves me too. The other girls care depending on how much time they're allowed to spend with us...if they start to care too much, it's cut back by their mother. I accept that right now because I have to but I know that someday she won't pull their strings and then I can build a good relationship with them all. Til then I just stoke the fires and keep letting them know I care. I will never be their mother nor would I want to be. They have a mother and they love her. I can and will be the best step mother than I can be, given the circumstances and hope that I make an impression on their lives. Blended? No...more like mixed up! LOL But it's ours. Blended does set unrealistic expectations though...because it sounds so seamless....so completely mixed TOGETHER that one cannot tell where one person starts and another ends....where one original family begins and another ends. That may be what we strive for but it surely is not what we want. We treasure our identities and individual personalities. Blended is a label that makes it easier to understand that we fell in love with a person that came with a lot more than one body.