Because of the Brady Bunch, did we all grow up thinking blending families was a piece of cake? If you think about it, the Brady kids got along great with each other, and with their new step parent. Ex’s or deceased spouses were never mentioned. In this week’s Love Essentially, published yesterday in Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press, I offer a real look into blending families, with the help of Licensed Marriage and Family Counselor, Jessica Waxman.
Blending Families Not As Simple as The Brady Bunch by Jackie Pilossoph
Jackie, what are your thoughts on blending families when the kids don’t get along?
Meeting someone and falling madly in love ranks pretty high in the best moments of life, doesn’t it? But what if you were a divorced person with kids, and what if your kids didn’t share the warm, loving feelings you have for your new sweetheart and his or her kids? It happens a lot, and according to Northbrook-based, licensed marriage and family therapist Jessica Waxman it’s understandable.
“Because children of divorce are feeling emotionally fragile, it’s hard for them to take on more change,” said Waxman, who has been practicing in the field for 11 years.
According to Waxman, there are many possible reasons kids might not get along as well as the Brady Bunch kids did:
• The kids might feel they are being forced to socialize with the kids of their mom or dad’s new love, which might be taking time away from being with their other friends.
• They might feel a sense that they are losing their parent to another family, in other words, losing control.
• The time they spend alone with their parent might decrease, causing the kids to feel insecure and angry.
•The kids might still have the fantasy that their parents are getting back together, and in their minds, the new kids prove to be obstacles to that happening.
• The kids might still be grieving. In other words, it’s just too soon.
Waxman said kids need time to grieve their parents’ divorce, to get used to having two houses, and to adjust to living with both mom and dad as single parents.
“They have to become confident that the relationship they have with both parents will stay strong during and after the divorce,” she said. “Until that happens, families shouldn’t be blended.”
Telling your children you’re in love
“I met someone I really like,” is a nice way to start the conversation, according to Waxman. She said kids like to see that their parents happy.
I agree with Waxman, but also want to add that it’s important to let your kids know that your new guy (or girl) will never try to take the place of their mother (or father), and that the new relationship won’t ever change the love you have for them, or your relationship.
As far as talking about your new love’s kids, Waxman suggested offering facts about them versus “overselling.”
For example, instead of saying, “Jenny is so adorable! She’s funny and sweet and very kind,” you might want to say, “Jenny enjoys playing soccer and she’s in the school choir.”
What if your kids refuse to see the other kids?
It’s a fine line. On one hand, you are the parent and therefore you have the right to blend your family if you choose. On the other hand, is it possible to push too much and turn the kids off permanently?
“You have to find the right balance,” Waxman said…Click here to read the rest of the column, published yesterday in Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press.