When you see kids when they are small you think they will be precious forever. It doesn’t matter whether the child is your own or whether they belong to someone else, they are precious. After many years of watching them change, you begin to believe that maybe forever may be a little much. You observe the way they learn to be manipulative, dramatic, and sometimes just plain mean. What makes a child change so drastically over the years?
In most cases, a child becomes a victim of a blended family. You may ask why they would be considered a victim. Being part of a blended family means that a child’s biological parents have divorced, separated, or suffered a loss of one parent. Then one or both parents remarry to someone that has children of their own. The child inherits a step-parent, plus they have new siblings they never planned on having in their lives. Eventually, the family gains a new addition to the family; a baby. Now the child has step parents, step siblings, and a half sibling. What once was a life of normalcy suddenly becomes a life of chaos and confusion. They find themselves sharing a parent, a house, their room, and their own personal belongings with strangers they don’t know and probably don’t like.
Adults expect children to accept change with open arms. They don’t think of the long term effects a child may suffer when they have no one to help deal with the newly developed family. A child may feel replaced by their Mom or Dad because she believes she is no longer the apple of Dad’s eye when the new baby is born. He may believe he was replaced by a new son that shares more interests with Dad than he ever did. Their minds begin to play games on them and they learn how to manipulate. They feel that they must act out in order for their parent to notice them. They must fight to regain their Dad’s acceptance or their Mother’s love.
Many families make one big mistake that causes all the turmoil in the first place. They treat ever child equally. The parents, both biological and step parent, feel what is good for one child is good for all. They must spend the exact amount of money on each child, give the exact number of hugs and spend the same amount of time with every sibling; this is the fair way. At least, the parents believe it is the only way to make each child happy and feel accepted as part of the family. However, this may not hold true in every family, with every child.
I am not a child expert, a marriage or family counselor, or a psychologist, but I was raised as part of a blended family and now, as an adult, I am the parent and step-parent of children in a blended family. My husband and I have His, Hers, and our children. He has two children from a previous marriage, one boy and one girl. I have one child from a previous marriage, a boy and we have a daughter together. Because we were friends before we dated, and the three oldest children played together all the time, we never expected any of them to have an issue with us being together as a couple. It wasn’t until later in the relationship that we realized we were badly mistaken. Within a year of dating, we had our little girl. Suddenly all the problems began, except we forgot about one factor in the scenario that was the hardest to overcome; the ex spouse.
Children are great about getting their way through the “other” parent. We fought this battle for many years. We went through tough times of being accused of child abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse and so on. We were visited by “professionals” on many occasions to check on the kids. We spent many years fighting our innocence because we were accused of so many different things. Many couples in this situation know exactly what I am talking about. My husband was accused of sexually abusing his daughter; my brother was accused of sexually abusing his daughter. My husband and I were accused of physically abusing his son and daughter. It didn’t matter how hard we tried to love each child, we always found ourselves in the center of drama. Nine years after our relationship began, we still find ourselves dealing with issues. However, I can happily say we have managed to live the last two years without going to court to defend ourselves to the ex-spouse, and one year free of dealing with police officers coming to our door for a “welfare check” on the kids because a phone call was made to the mom telling her they were being abused.
I know this may sound dramatic without going into details of all we have endured over the years. I will admit that when people use to tell me that I was a better person than them to stay in a relationship that caused me so much grief and stress, I would agree. However, I have come to realize something it took me over nine years to see with my own eyes. I spent a moment looking in the mirror and remembering back to how I felt when I was part of a blended family. My Dad remarried and I inherited a step-mom, step-sister, and step-brother that, at the age of 13, I didn’t want. My older brother and I were still adjusting to the loss of our oldest brother and adjusting from living with our Mom to living with our Dad. Then he throws this girl friend at us and next thing we know, he is getting married, and we are moving into her house with her kids. I had to share a room with her daughter and give up mine. Luckily, the step-brother was graduating and leaving for the military. Therefore, I had time to get use to having a sister before having to adjust to having a new “big” brother. I lost my big brother and wasn’t ready for a replacement.
My Dad didn’t spend a lot of time with me anymore. He didn’t hug me like he used to, nor did we talk like we use to. I felt like an outsider in a stranger’s home. Yet, I was expected to act like a family. I was supposed to go to a new school and brag about the sister I hardly knew to her friends because I no longer had friends of my own. My friends, my family, and my life were left behind in my past. My step-mother showed no signs of love to me or my brother. She never hugged us, no told us she loved us, and never spent time with us as if we were her kids. Yet, she had no problem disciplining us when she felt we didn’t abide by her rules. I watched as my Dad supported her and began to treat us the same way she did. I began to feel resentment and the need to manipulate in order to feel like I had some type of control of my own life. I sat back and listen as my mother’s reputation as my mother was bashed. I dealt with the death of my brother and all the ugly stuff I carried in my heart that led up to his death alone. I spent many nights crying into my pillow because I wasn’t allowed to cry out loud. I remember how I felt when I was part of a blended family. My life was turned upside and I wasn’t eager for any kind of drastic change. Our Mom was sick and needed us; we didn’t need a new Mom. At the age of 13, these are the feelings I was experiencing. Sadly, I had no one around me that understood. I only had people promoting themselves and change. I was in a scary place for a child.
Now I realize that I am headed down the same path with my own children. I realize what my kids may be feeling. Most importantly, I realize that I was once one of them. I didn’t care if some things were “fair” or not. I wanted hugs from my Dad, as many hugs as I could get. I wanted to feel loved and needed to feel loved from anyone and everyone I came into contact with. My life was turned upside down and I needed to know I was part of the new life I was thrown into and that I held a special place in that life. Therefore, I believe that when a child is blended into a new family with a new parent, new siblings, and new surroundings, it is important to include them in every step of the transition. It is important for each child to maintain a strong relationship with their own parent as if nothing has changed, although everything has changed. Each child needs a few extra hugs from their biological parent with reassurance that they will be there for their child every step of their way through life. Each child needs to know that the new parent will support them, love them, and accept them as their own.
My husband should reach out to his own children and spend time with them, reach out to them, and embrace them so they know they weren’t replaced. His daughter should be reassured our daughter didn’t take her place in his heart. His son should understand that my son is no better than him. My son should know that I will always love him as my first born child. Yet, my step son should know that I have plenty of love to offer him. Our daughter should be taught that just because she lives with both her parents and the other kids don’t, she doesn’t get special privileges. She still lives by the same rules as the other children. On the flip side, there is nothing wrong with my husband and me loving our daughter and fulfilling her life in an unbroken home. It isn’t her fault that the other children come from broken marriages.
Children are precious and will be forever. Sometimes it may seem like they aren’t, but if they don’t have the support it takes to adjust to life’s alterations, they become forced to transform into someone other than themselves. They become victims of change. Each child deserves to know where their place is in life. They need to feel as if that place belongs to them. They require the time and attention necessary to embrace that change in their own time without force. Each child is different and they all cope in their own way. They need space of their own and time to themselves. Parents seem to forget that a child’s needs are just as important as adults. After all, if a parent won’t put their child’s needs first, who will? A new family should never be forced upon a child. Allow the child to adjust and grow into their new role in the family. In the mean time, each parent should love their own children and support their own child through the conversion. The step-parent should give the child space and allow them to come around in their own time. Until then, they should take every opportunity they are given to show the child they are interested in being a part of their life. Reinforcement helps a child to build confidence and what any parent should want is for a child to have confidence in them.
A blended family can be happy as long as every member is able to let go of the past and embrace the future. Everyone should find a way to support one another. It is alright to start out as an acquaintance. Two families that unite together need to get to know each other and develop a bond then grow into a family. Once the bond is built it is strong enough to last. At that time, you will be able to develop an everlasting love that no one can take away. In the end, every one wins and no one is a victim. Instead, you will all become on big happy family!