A blended family is a family consisting of a couple and child/children (his/hers) from previous relations. These are families that have step relations. Blended/Step families are becoming a significant part of our society today due to increase in divorce/separation and not forgetting death.
It is easier to assume that the society judges step families negatively, however, the truth is for most people, the step families they know are those in the fairy tales that they grew up reading which depicted step families negatively. As I had mentioned last week Conflict is Part of Step Family Living this month’s blogs will address the issues that came up during the step mum forum we held. During that forum we realized that our relatives, colleagues, friends and neighbors at times actually do not understand our step family life.
Instead of us (members of step families) demanding acceptance from them and the society as a whole, I think it would be great to let them in on some basics about step families. It’s my belief this will help you understand your neighbor/friend/colleague or relative who is living in a step family. On the other hand, for those in step families, this is great information to empower you in your step family journey
Step families are here to stay
Step families are going nowhere and neither are they a new creation. Since time immemorial, including the biblical times, step families have been part of us. Though no one says ‘when I grow up I want to form a step family….’ every day, there are new step families being created in several parts of the world. Life happens – death/divorce/early pregnancies that lead to the formation of step families. Life hasn’t stopped happening…. Therefore more step families will be formed.
Family is not always blood
Step families may have complicated relations but that does not make them lesser families. Family is not always based on genes. DNA does not always make one a parent. Therefore, step families still form the basic unit of the society like any other families. Just to quote Pope Francis – ‘Family is the basic unit of the society and the first school in which children learn the human, spiritual and moral values which enable them to be a beacon of goodness, integrity and justice in our community.’ It does not matter what name is before family – step family/ adopted family/foster family/single parent family. Our desire for children – step/bio is the same. We want to bring up an emotionally balanced generation.
Different does not mean dysfunctional
Of course step families are different, compared to the ordinary nuclear families where both bio parents are with their bio children. This however does not mean that step families are dysfunctional families. A dysfunctional family is a family in which conflict, misbehavior, and often child neglect or abuse on the part of individual parents occur continually and regularly, leading other members to accommodate such actions.
It’s not the composition of the family that makes it dysfunctional/functional. The basic components that make a family function – respect, emotionally safe environment, accountability, acceptance, a home with courtesy, respectable boundaries and where adults work together for the welfare of the family. These components can also be gotten in step families.
My step children are my family too
When you come to visit, please do not bring one lollipop for my bio child only, do not bring presents only when it’s my bio child’s birthday and ignore my step children. This goes out especially to my relatives/colleagues and friends. I know at times it’s hard to wrap your mind around the fact just the other day I was single without any child, and right now am a step mum of child/children. However, when you openly ignore my step children, it does not help us as a family. Help me build a better step family unit by recognizing and acknowledging my step children too.
Just because am a step parent does not mean am wicked
I know this may be a tough one to ask especially if you read about the wicked step mums and experienced a wicked step mum in your life. Don’t get me wrong, am aware that there are step parents who epitomize the evil step parent role. This is really sad….
However, there are very many step parents who are trying and have chosen to do what’s right for their step children, their bio children and their step family units as a whole. Therefore, just because I am a step parent, don’t judge me or perceive me as evil. Give me a chance.
Founder – The Blended Family Network
Author – A Delicate Balance – Parenting in a Step Family
Blended Family Coach – Been in a step family for the last sixteen years and still Counting
Happy belated mother’s day. As we celebrated mothers, the media and social was full of beautiful messages of people celebrating their mums. That was lovely, since truth be told there is no one like mum. We must remember however that there are different types of mothers around us, foster mums, adoptive mums, step mums and those who are guardians too. We have different women who are making significant impact in raising and taking care of children who are not biologically their own. If you are that kind of ‘mother’ I celebrate you Happy belated Mothers day to you.
For step mums, I know that mother’s day at times brings with it feelings of not being appreciated. This is because as a step mum you are expected to give as a parent yet may not be appreciated as one. In this post today, I will share 5 struggles that you will go through as a step mother and how to overcome these struggles. With these in mind, your journey and role as a step mother will be less stressful.
Unlike the ordinary nuclear family, in step family life, the roles are at times blurred. It is no wonder that step mothers most of the rimes do not understand what is expected from them and what is not. So we end up thinking that since we are giving as much as a mum can give, we expect to be given the same respect and acknowledgement a bio mother has. This is not always the case
If you are about to become a step mother, please ensure that before you marry, have a talk about expectations. What does he expect from you and what do you expect. Ensure that your expectations are realistic. For those of us who are already married, it’s never too late to have the conversation about your roles. Now is the time to fix the next years of your step family. Remember to define your roles to your step family needs. Do not compare and assume that your roles are the same as the couple in an ordinary nuclear family.
Am sure during this mother day/ week/weekend, there are a lot of step mothers who felt the bitter stab of rejection, unappreciation…name it. This is because your step child did nothing to acknowledge you. The feeling of rejection is painful, this is cause as human beings one of our basic needs according to Maslow is acceptance. There are very many instances that step mothers will definitely experience rejection.
Rejection is part of the journey of step motherhood. During the early years of the integration of your family of course, your step children will reject you because they do not know you, they have not accepted the step family life or basically they were not well prepared for the step family life. Therefore, as a couple you will need to give it time, research says it takes a min 4 years to 7 years for step families to function as whole.
Some of the rejection you also feel as a step mother is cause of your expectations…. Manage your expectations. At times our perception works against us, accept your role/position in your step child’s and do your best in your role. Some step mums think they are a replacement mum. No one can replace a bio parent.
Lack of Support
It’s no doubt that being a step mother is one of the most challenging roles in a step family. As a step mum I know this too well. Therefore step mothers need a lot of support in order to be successful in their role. Step parenting actually takes two – the step parent and the bio parent. Remember the reason a step parent in the life of the child is because of the bio parent. To be successful therefore, you need the bio parent.
Communication… consistent communication is required. As a step mother, talk to your husband and let him know what he can do to support you in your role as a step mother. Talk about the challenges; ensure that you do this in a non judgmental/non accusatory manner.
Walking the journey alone can be lonely and overwhelming, therefore get support, learn more about step family life, talk to a step family coach or attend step family workshops. The more equipped you are, the easier it become.
We all know ‘wicked’, ‘evil’ step mother stereotypes’. It is almost assumed that if you are a step mother, then you are wicked. This is not true. If you are reading this and you are wicked, then it is unfortunate and it’s time to change or give up the step family life.
It amazes how as step moms, or members of step family, we are looking for or even at times demanding acceptance yet we have not fully embraced our selves. We are ashamed of our role. Acceptance and change about the negative stereotypes begins with us. We cannot demand for what we do not practice. Accept your role as a step mum, do your best in this role and see the rest of the world changing their perception.
Founder – The Blended Family Network
Author – A Delicate Balance – Parenting in a Step Family
Blended Family Coach – Been in a step family for the last sixteen years and still Counting
This month on 28th Jan 2017 we will be having our program Moving Forward – A New Beginning After Divorce. This program is not only meant to help you in your journey after a divorce, but also to enable you to support your child effectively after this life changing event in their lives. As parents we at times get caught in the pain, betrayal, conflict and all the shenanigans’ of the divorce that we forget our children are getting lost in the midst of all these.
Therefore it’s important to understand what is going on with your child, invest in healing yourself so that you can be able to support your child effectively. A child who is not well supported after experiencing parents’ divorce is bound to be affected negatively right into their adulthood life. Do not allow the occurrence of the divorce mess your child’s entire life.
Therefore, what does your child go through?
If your children are young, they will find it hard to believe that their parents are divorced. To your children you are Ken and Barbie, never to be apart. As a result they will always imply its temporary or will out rightly ask when their other parent is coming back home
Feelings of Insecurity
Children feel insecure because the foundation that held the family (parents) is no more. They will experience feelings of abandonment – who will take of us. Feelings of uncertainty – what will happen to us? They may be preoccupied in looking for answers and information to explain what is happening to their family. Some may be preoccupied with working on reconciliation as a solution to the uncertainty, insecurity, fear of change or probably because they may be feeling sorry for one of their parents.
Divorce is overwhelming for children especially to those children that have been exposed to a lot of conflict between their parents before and after divorce. Some children will adapt negative behavior – act out in anger, express hostility, fights, trouble in school/with peers/parents or engage in sexual activities.
The other thing to look out for that is detrimental is depression – lethargy, changes in sleep/eating patterns, isolating themselves or self inflicted physical injury
Immaturity – Regression
This mostly occurs in young children – they may regress to earlier developmental stage and start to baby talk or wet their beds.
Blame and Guilt
Marital conflict is related to other stresses of the family including finances and parenting. The children who have been audience to these conflicts may feel guilty and blame themselves for being the cause of the divorce. This is made worse when parents who are already divorced still fight about the child’s care and schedules in the child’s presence.
Please note; If you are reading this, and you have noticed some of these reactions in your child, do not feel condemned. Research actually shows that children are actually capable of navigating through the challenges of the parents’ divorce to become balanced and responsible adults in future. This is only possible with the support from the parents.
One positive reaction that also comes after divorce is an increased sense of responsibility. A child will realize that things are not the same and make a choice to pull up their weight to become more responsible than they were previously. Though it’s a positive move, do not assume that the child is okay, this child also needs to be well supported to make him/her a better person.
Founder The Blended Family Network
Blended Family Coach, Psychologist, counselor NLP Life Coach
Meeting other step mums at Parklands Sports Club last Friday 31st April 2017 was an exciting experience and indeed an evening of shared experiences of our step family lives. This month I will be sharing lessons learnt during our interactions that evening.
The first one is that, peace is not the absence of conflict. We often associate conflict to imply negative relations, (do not get me wrong, at times it does) however, conflict is also part of relationship formation. The most important thing is to resolve the conflicts we face in a healthy and peaceful manner instead of avoiding them.
Some us, due to the negative tales we have heard about step families, we tend to totally avoid conflicts. Therefore our step families – are too peaceful – everyone is walking on egg shells, ensuring that there is no conflict. There is rarely communication especially between the step parent and step child except for a quick halo, yet we live in the same house! My take is that members will miss out on forming meaningful familial relationships and end up just having cordial relations. In such a step family there are clearly defined lines of outsiders and insiders. This is mostly interchangeable since the step children will feel like outsiders in relation to the couple’s relations while other times, the step parent will feel like an outsider in relation to the bio parent and the step child’s relations. One family with two camps under the same roof. The one caught in the middle is often the bio parent who will eventually be overwhelmed by trying to pacify the two camps.
Conflict is unavoidable and necessary for formation of successful step family life because, it is not possible to bring in a step parent (maybe with step siblings too) into a single parent family and everyone fits in like a perfect puzzle. There is bound to be conflict, gradually however, we all find our balance. Step families that are avoiding conflict, will never find their balance or have an emotionally balanced step family life.
Conflict occurs as we define our new relationships, roles and identity in the step family. Every member of the step family feels the challenges of the step family life and will therefore try to find themselves in the entire process. conflict will not be a onetime occurrence, brace yourself because it is part of our step family dynamics. It is important because
It helps us to strengthen and form honest relationships with one another
Helps us set boundaries as individuals and as a family unit
Teaches us how to treat each other and how to allow the society to treat us
Enables us to understand our common ground as a step family unit
My recommendation is to equip yourself with conflict resolution skills instead of avoiding it. Create a non judgmental home environment that allows open family communications, frequent family discussions, establish and maintain basic standards of respect in the family.
Marriages are meant to last forever – till death do us part. Nevertheless, sometimes things do not turn out this way. We are a time in our society when divorce/separation is more common compared to the earlier years. This however does not negate the fact divorce/separation is still a painful and stressful life event. They are the number 2 and 3 respectively most stressful events according to list of 43 stressful life events included on Social Readjustment Rating Scale, following the death of a spouse. Going through divorce/separation is a ‘What Now?’ moment. It demands you to ask yourself – What Now? It’s a turning point in your life. Therefore if your are reading this and have gone through a divorce/separation, please know that you are bound to make choice – consciously/subconsciously. Whatever direction you choose will either make you a better person or get you stuck in pain, guilt, shame, excuses and feelings of unworthiness.
Though divorce/separation is painful, you do not have to live the rest of your life in pain. This month, our focus has been healing after divorce. We have touched on different topics that will help you move forward after divorce.
You will definitely feel nervous about getting support, however, this feeling should not stop you because it will pass. Here are reasons why you need support to move forward
You will discover that you are not alone
In the midst of pain most of the time we think it’s only happening to me. ‘Why me? ’ Getting support for yourself is a chance to interact with other people who have gone through the same, understand your hurt, emotions and painful experience. It’s a chance to interact with people at different phases of recovery after divorce. This will enable you to understand what you are going through and aware of what to expect, making your recovery period less stressful.
Learn helpful practical information
As mentioned earlier, divorce/separation is a turning point at one’s life – whether you were left or you are the one who demanded for it. Getting support will give you awareness about the emotional, psychological phases of divorce, equip you with strategies, attitudes and skills that will help you in your journey after divorce/separation.
Have the chance to talk about your experiences
Sharing your story may seem like a daunting task, nonetheless, it will heal you and moreover it will heal someone else. This means that you will also be healed from hearing someone else’s story too. Sharing your experience is a great opportunity to free yourself and begin a new journey for yourself and your children
Minimizing negative Effects of Divorce/Separation on your children
Divorce/Separation may have devastating negative effects on your child – Children’s’ Reaction to Divorce. Research shows that with the correct support from the parents, children are able to successfully navigate through the challenges of divorce and become responsible well balanced adults.