Tag Archives: blended family

Create Trust within Blended Family Blended Family Trust Step Parenting Trust

Trust is defined as the reliance on the integrity, strength and ability of a person or thing. You likely want your step-children to feel this at the start of a blended family, but it’s a thing that must be earned. For a child coming into a new blended family, he is likely to already be a bit weary of trusting in a family. His original nuclear family was torn apart from divorce, and he may harbor such fears like the fact that it may happen again. He may worry that the arguments he may have witnessed at the demise of his parents’ marriage may come up in a new marriage. However, there are many ways that a child’s fears can be replaced with reassurance and trust.

Instigate and continue an ongoing dialogue with your spouse regarding building trust within the family. Speak openly about your own children; ask your spouse many things about his children. Learning about your new stepchildren can help you understand them more fully; that can only help with communication.

Start with the truth. Don’t expect a child to place a continued trust in you if you’ve lied to him before. Avoid lying to members of the blended family at all costs. Even if you come up looking as less-than-stellar, it’s still better than a lie. Lies are something that children are hard-pressed to forget, and a child often looks for reasons to be even more skeptical of a new step-parent.

Speak openly. While it may be tempting to push emotions under the rug for fear of creating an environment that’s overly emotional, that’s ultimately unhealthy. Using language that is neutral and not attacking, express your feelings. This will teach all the children that they are free to do the same, as long as they do so respectfully of others. If you are angry at something, be sure to state that you are angry at a certain action. Never say, “I’m mad at you.” Instead, state, “I’m so mad at that action. This is why it hurt my feelings…” It makes a child listen and avoids making them feel defensive.

Admit it when you’re wrong. Apologize for mistakes that you make. A child is much more likely to trust you if he understands that you make mistakes and take responsibility for them. It also makes it easier for a child to admit when she is in trouble herself.

State your intent to be there for the child openly, honestly and with promises that you can keep. Telling the child that you love him is important. Telling the child the many reasons why you love him-and naming them specifically-helps him believe it more easily. That also helps his confidence. Promise a child that you will always stop and listen to him if he has a problem no matter how busy you are if it’s a promise that you can make when you’re at home.

Expressing love, empathy and dedication will help start you, your spouse, your children and your step-children towards building a family environment of trust.



The Effect of Divorce on Children

The divorce rate stands at 50%, effecting more than 1 million children in the US each year. The counselors at Discovery Counseling note a cultural change in the attitude toward divorce, and the factors effecting children involved in a divorce.

Child development patterns and developmental theories, while helpful in counseling, must be viewed within the changing circumstances of society. For example, Freud first published his theories in the early 1900’s when divorce was not viewed as a socially acceptable option and the number of children dealing with blended families was relatively small.

The acceptability of divorce has changed dramatically over the last 30 years. In the early sixties, divorce, step families, remarriage were not terms that were widely heard. Today nearly half of all babies born today will spend some time in a one-parent family. Society’s change in attitude regarding divorce can be seen in TV programs. Families in the 50’s were represented by shows such as Ozzie and Harriet; Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best. These programs presented a view of families, which consisted of a middle class two parent, mother stays at home and the father is the sole financial provider family. Today’s programs today range from Murphy Brown in the 90’s, a single working woman who had a child out of wedlock to Reba a divorced mother dealing with child visitation and step family member issues.

A new term is being used in the literature to describe today’s family unit; binuclear or blended family as opposed to the nuclear family. A binuclear or blended family is any family that spans two households. The major difference between the nuclear family and the binuclear family is the potential complexity of extended family relationships; children dealing with step-parents, step- siblings, being shuttled between two homes, holidays being split between two family traditions.

A blended family introduces a number of issues including family system disruption, reduced resources, step family member conflict and the parental conflict.

The financial resources of a family involved in a divorce may change dramatically after a divorce. Today more wives are working, but in most cases their earnings are quite a bit less than their husbands. The custodial parent is most often the mother when families with children dissolve. These single-parent families face a dramatic drop in income within the early years of the divorce. Even with child support most single-parent households that are headed by the mother are considered low income and live near or below the poverty line. Divorce couples must also face changes in credit. The individual in the relationship who was not the primary “breadwinner” can find it difficult to establish credit in his or her own name. Of those individuals who had credit, most experienced lowered credit limits, cancellations of credit, and increased pressure from companies to pay off the outstanding debts.

For kids of divorce, adapting to a life of low income has a great impact on their lives. Financial constraints have been shown to cause the major caregiver parent to return to work, to increase the number of work hours, to take on a second job, or to attend night school to improve his/her job skills. Thus, the parent becomes less available to the child physically and emotionally because the parent is away from the home most of the day. When the parent is home, he/she has little time and energy left to give the adequate attention to the child. For the child, less income also means a loss in the opportunity to participate in activities like lessons, sports, summer camps, movies, and other special interests.

The divorce itself is usually preceded by parental conflict, followed by separation that often leads to internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. Care must be taken to insure that children are not included in the parental conflict. This lack of separation of children and conflict may be the reason why studies have shown that divorce can benefit children whose parents had a high degree of conflict.

All three factors affect children of divorce; the disruption of the family, the change in financial resources and the parental conflict involved in the family system during the divorce.

Cheryl Gowin is a counselor at Discovery Counseling, a center offering marriage, family and individual counseling.



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