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Parenting and the blended family

Anyone who has ever mentioned the hardest thing they’ve ever done and not said parenting, has never been a parent. We are told of the joys of parenthood and we read “What to expect when you’re expecting”, and decorate nurseries, but are usually never told we’ll probably never have a good night sleep again. Parenthood is an all- encompassing emotional rollercoaster from their birth well into their adult years. We barely know what we’re doing in an intact home, so what do we do in a blended marriage?

There are exceptional cases and every family is different, depending on the situation, of course, but it is far too common for a blended household to be shaken by children. What you have established in the intact home will most certainly change in the second marriage and blended home. One of the most difficult things in a marriage is to have a united front with the children. Each parent has his/her own experiences in their childhood, cultural differences perhaps, and things that have shaped their worldviews to make them the persons they are as adults. There will inevitably be some adjusting and compromising in order to establish rules and a command chain, etc. When this is broken and the parents find themselves in a new marriage, things have to be re-adjusted.

Too often, parents are grieving the divorce or their failure to keep a marriage together. Guilt plays a large part in a parent’s heart as well. These things may skew the parent’s perspective and mind-set. So what happens is that the new stepparent comes along with his/her ideas of raising a child and has to face the laws that are already in place. These dynamics place a huge burden on the marriage. If you are co-parenting with your ex and have equal custody, every decision you make must pass by the other parent. You may decide something with your spouse and it might be turned down by the other parent or even worse, you may decide something with your ex that your own spouse does not necessarily agree with. That leads to feelings of jealousy and animosity. What if your spouse has his/her own children also? Now it becomes even more difficult to have the same rules for everyone as another parent has to come in on both sides and give permission. What if you have new children with your spouse? Your new children will have to adjust to their siblings having other rules as they are being raised in other households as well.

After a while, it’s a never-ending cycle of either arguing with your ex or arguing with your new spouse. Many parents at this point either abnegate their rights as a parent and give custody to the other parent or fight the other parent for full custody to end the cycle. But before you throw in the towel, or make any rash decision, take a deep breath and look at your children. They are a gift given to you to raise for such a short while. They are not at fault for the divorce and do not deserve to be taken away from any one parent. Unless there are circumstances that are putting your child in danger or situation of neglect, they should grow up with input from both parents. This means having a family meeting and coming up with ways to compromise or rules that are laid out for parents and stepparents alike; lines that cannot be crossed, discipline that must be enforced, guidelines for ethical and moral teaching. This is something that not only should be done before you remarry, but also when co-parenting with several parents involved. The wholeness and security given to your child as they see the teamwork of the parents will far outweigh the headaches and stresses of today.

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