Three Secrets to Successful Blended Families

Is your family made up of yours, mine and ours kids? Are you trying to be a super parent, stepparent and referee between all the kids? Raising children is the hardest job and blending different families on top of that is especially challenging.

The first secret is understand that children, especially young children, need a strong sense of belonging to be happy in a blended family. Belonging means kids have to identify with all their parents. Kids need to know where they ‘fit’ in the family. Children need to know even when they are not physically with the ‘other’ parent that their parent is constantly thinking of them and loves them.

How do parents make sure that kids know they are always with them even if it is just in spirit, because they cannot be there in person?

The answer is to give your kids something of yours like a favorite bracelet for a girl or matchbox truck for a boy. If the kids are older, a picture of you both playing basketball or movie passes to use together the next time you see each other.

The second secret is playing games with your kids to remind them that you will NEVER leave them no matter what. Kids will test to see if their parents really do want them to stay in their lives by either asking or telling their parent that they want to go live with the ‘other’ parent. This request always underlies the child’s fear that one and or all of their parents will in fact abandon them.

For younger children ‘hide and go seek’ is the best game to let kids know that their parents still exist even though they cannot see them. Before you hide tell your child, “I won’t see your face while you hide, but it doesn’t matter because you will always be my little boy/girl and I will always find you and see you again”. For older kids send letters or e-mails everyday and talk about what you are going to do together as soon as you see each other.

The last secret is no bad mouthing. Kids believe they are powerful enough to be responsible for whatever troubles a family. If one parent bad mouths’ another, kids think it must mean that they are bad too. After all, if you think of it in kid logic, they are a part of both their parents, so whatever the parent thinks of the ‘other’ parent is a reflection on them.

So, NEVER be NEGATIVE about your spouse to your kids. And ALWAYS talk about your ex-husband/wife, in positive terms in front of your kids. Now that the secrets are out to successful blended families, we can all help children feel a sense of belonging, feel loved by all their parents and hear nothing but respectful talk in all types of families.

Dr. Ann