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One Big Happily Family: Assimilating To Family Life After Divorce

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

Whether the split was a “necessary evil” or a good thing for each or both of you, it’s not likely that kids will (immediately) understand. In fact, some never learn to let go, even into adulthood, while others eventually embrace their step-parents and step-family and may even grow to appreciate the new situation and family arrangement better than the original one. Still, letting go and acceptance take time, especially if children are young and their relationship with the other parent a (perceived) rewarding and good one.

But, until that time, experts suggest that step-parenting can make parenting look like the preferred and easier task.

1. Refrain from trying to replace the other parent: Try to remember that most kids LOVE their parents regardless of their differences or flaws in lifestyle and personality. And, they don’t and can’t understand the need for the split. Even if you ARE the more competent “parent”, let the memory in their mind, live on, and accept, as the adult, at least for now, that you are NOT their “real” parent and it’s not likely they will or want to see or embrace you as such.

2. Don’t enforce “happily ever after”: You may all eventually wind up being one big happy family or two big happy step-families, but experts suggest it takes at least three years for children to accept the new person and the subsequent changes.

3. Do take control over certain rules and regulations: While it’s often best to let the biological parent deal with delicate and personal issues, it’s also important to show love and establish boundaries. Don’t, say experts try to “win” the kids’ love by letting them do what they want. Instead, it’s best to lay down the ground rules with the biological mom or dad and let them clue in kids, but don’t hesitate to enforce the rules when you have to. It’s a great way to win some respect and to encourage kids to see you as mom or dad’s equal and in a parental light.

4. Let go of the guilt:<./b> No, it’s not going to be easy, but you shouldn’t let the guilt, guilt you into doing whatever the family wants or demands. In fact, if you don’t act like a wife and mom, the longer it will take to be accepted as one, especially by the kids.

5. Give them room to grieve: Give your new mate and especially the kids room to get adjusted and grieve. Remember, unless they’ve been on their own for a while the new transition and set up is going to be difficult, especially on young kids, and especially since is their first real dose of “harsh reality” and that their parents are NOT going to patch things up.

6. Make them feel included: Telling kids about things you enjoy with your new spouse is no way to win the kids’ affection. Keep in mind that they may already feel like outsiders and intruders and you “reminding” them, is, according to experts, a big “no-no”. Instead simply be respectful and loving, but cautious around the kids and they’ll intrinsically pick up on “that”.

7. Never be negative about the past or an ex: Regardless of what you and your mate know and think, no need to bad mouth the ex to the kids. Remember, it may be just another person, and not too great of one at that, to you, but to the kids, it’s and always will be their mom or dad.

8. Be careful about how you parent and how you point out their flaws: Don’t be derogatory, even when you are making demands and giving orders. Make sure to choose your words and battles carefully and even ask your partner to take charge rather than simply make it look like he or she is taking your side and stepping in.

9. Don’t dare to compare: Even if you have kids of your own, don’t compare them to your mate’s. Remember, you’ve been parenting your kids since they were born and so YOUR rules have become pretty much law. Give new family members time to get use to your and the new way of doing things and to the new rules. Also try not to show favouratism but instead discipline, reward and treat everyone with an equal amount of love and respect.

10. Let go of great expectations: Regardless and despite how much you do, don’t expect gratitude, at least not at first. Remember, your mate’s children probably see you as the “enemy” who is preventing a reunion or reconciliation and so, your efforts to make nice are likely simply “not good enough”. On the other hand, you shouldn’t tolerate poor manners and outright rudeness.

11. Don’t let money come between you Remember, most parents feel guilty about their divorce and new situation and often use money and rewards to make it up to the kids. And, most kids play the situation up, especially in the beginning. Keep finances private (and some separate, if you’re concerned.) and let the two exes deal with it between them after your discussion and budget planning are over.

12. Don’t make your mate choose sides: He or she love you but also loves the kids, and it’s likely he or she wants to show allegiance to both of you, all without losing the love and respect of the other. Remember, the kids (and likely the ex) are already giving your spouse/mate a hard time. Don’t add to it by trying to divide them and making him or her pick sides.

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