With Proper Support, This Difficult Transition For Children Can Become A Blessing

These days with so many changes to the traditional family unit, relationships can suffer and families can be under immense stress.

The divorce rate in the U.S. has skyrocketed in recent decades, putting children in the middle and fracturing the family dynamic.  And to add to the emotional trauma that kids go through following the end of a marriage, many parents remarry later on down the road.

This situation, in particular, can be the breaking point for the children involved.  Not only do they have to split time between parents and households, they now have to welcome others into their world.  Adjusting to step-parents and step-siblings can be incredibly difficult for children, but there are some things parents can do to help with the transition and encourage bonding within the new family unit.

One of the most important things we can do as parents when introducing our children to a new family dynamic where everything they know has been turned upside-down is to make sure they still feel that they are unique and special.  Giving our kids one-on-one time to talk, listen, and bond is essential – both for our biological children and our step-children who are now becoming part of a new family.

Hand In Hand Parenting suggests creating “Special Time.” And while it may be different for each parent and child, this focus on each child’s needs will benefit the entire family:

Special Time is a tool where you give timed, one-on-one, attention to one child at a time. During this time you put aside everything else on your plate, follow the child’s lead, and do what they want to do. Even five minutes can make a difference. Just be sure to name it, time it, and give your full attention to the child whose turn it is.

Special Time helps children feel loved and cared for in a very tangible way. You are giving them you, your time and your energy, and your delight while they choose what to do. When you’re shining your love and warmth on your children, they soak it up and begin to thrive. No matter how many children you have in your blended family, finding time for Special Time can help everyone get along a lot better. If sibling squabbles break out often over who gets your attention, Special Time helps reassure each child that you want to be with them.

Offering Special Time to your stepchildren helps you get to know them well, allows for important bonding to happen, and lets them know you hold them on equal footing with your biological children. It is also a solid way to build the connection, trust, and safety needed for cooperation to follow.

While children are adjusting to having another adult in the home, they may have feelings of resentment, anger, or loss of control.  The purposeful time that parents set aside to spend time with each child can be used to open a dialogue into the child’s feelings and let them know they still matter and are still a vital member of the family unit.

And while we may think this is obvious with our own children while they go through any kind of transition, it is also essential to develop relationships between the new step-parent and step-child.  Blending two families together means virtually dropping children into a household full of strangers with different routines and traditions.  All of this can be very confusing for kids and can be stressful on the parents as well.

Creating a “special time” should also be implemented between step-siblings.  When parents remarry, the children may have to form relationships with new children living in the home.  Making friends is difficult enough for some children, and is especially challenging when living under the same roof with someone you have not gotten to know well yet.

This special time can be a time where the children choose an activity that they all enjoy and use it to get to know each other.  And often, when children see there is someone else who understands what they are going through, it helps to foster a bond and build a foundation of support for each other.

Hand In Hand Parenting continued:

As parents, we don’t have to do much. We simply hold confidence in our children’s ability to work through their emotions. We provide a safe container for them so they don’t hurt themselves or anyone else, and we reassure them we love them and will support them through it. It’s simple, and yet, sometimes it’s the hardest thing to do!

There are some simple ways to establish “special time,” but it is vital to follow through on the promised activity, keep communication open (both talking and listening), and understanding where each child is coming from while adjusting to a major life-change.

Some tips for creating a special time from Hand In Hand include:

Name it. You don’t have to call it “Special Time” but call it something so that you and your child both have a name for this important time together.

Set a Date. Let your child know ahead of time when Special Time is going to happen, whether it’s just a few minutes away or not until next weekend

One child at a time. Special Time works best one on one, though two adults could cooperate to give one child Special Time together. But there’s no way for one parent to be fully focused on more than one child at a time. If you need to, start small. Find a way to carve out at least 5 minutes a couple times a week with each child and build from there. You’ll be amazed what your child can do with 5 minutes of your focused attention.

Let go of your agenda. Set everything else aside and don’t let anything interrupt this precious encounter. For these 5, or 10, or 30 minutes, don’t answer the door, don’t check your messages, don’t clean up anything, don’t let your mind wander, just be with your child. Enjoy your child. Learn something new about your child and the way he sees the world. Focus and be present and don’t teach.

Blending two families can be difficult, but with open communication, understanding, and giving one-on-one time to each family member, these new relationships can blossom and enrich children’s lives.  Once they adjust to the transition with proper guidance and support, they will have some new trusted people in their lives to love, nurture, and support them.  And that is a blessing to any child.

Are you a part of a blended family?  What special things do you do to foster those relationships?  Leave us your thoughts in the comments section.

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