Blending families is a time consuming and delicate process that needs to be handled correctly if you hope to be successful. Here in this series we are addressing some of the bigger issues that come up during the process of uniting two families. In this segment we are going to be talking about the fourth item on our list: The “other” parent.
The “Other Parent”
Blended families, by their very nature, usually include children who also have “other” parents – moms and dads who often still have partial custody, or at the very least, visitation. This, obviously, can cause issues. Especially when there is residual resentment between former partners, or jealousy over a new and happy partnership. But while it can be stressful and cause frustration, there are a couple of basic ground rules that will help make the process of blending your families in these circumstances a little easier.
Keep Your Mouth Shut!
Talking smack. Throwing shade. Trash mouthing. Call it what you like, either way, it’s a big no-no! Remember that few things will incite the anger and disrespect of a child faster than if you disparage and denigrate their parents. (Even if they do it themselves!) After all, they are a direct product of these people and chances are, they still love them.
There may be times where you are so angry with something that the “other” parent has said or done, especially if it negatively affects your current partner. However, children will remember every unkind or dismissive thing you say about their other parent, and may even repeat it to them. This will not only make things worse, but it will damage your chances at earning that child’s trust and affection.
Behind Closed Doors
On that note, if you do have issues with things that your ex, or your new spouse’s ex, are doing or saying, then you should certainly talk about it with your new partner. Just NOT where the kids can hear you! They have enough on their plates having to adjust to an entirely new family dynamic. They do not need to know the dirty details of why their “other” parent is rotten, insensitive, crazy or selfish. Keep all negatively-oriented discussions about the “other” behind closed doors, and out of earshot of younger ears.
Respect The Arrangement
Your spouse has a hard enough time handling the issues that come up with their ex already without you complicating things further. If however, the “other” parent is your ex, then you already know how tenuous these things can be. So, be very careful to respect any visitation or custody agreements already in place. You will not make anyone’s life easier, and especially the children caught in the middle, if you do not prioritize a court-ordered agreement.
The “New” Parent
Don’t try to be a replacement parent. This may seem a little odd, but it’s very important. Especially if you are hoping to build a relationship with your new step child or children. The truth is, they are probably going to be a little leery of you to begin with, and if you come in swinging, acting as if you have a right to assume the role of “mother” or “father” in their life, they are likely to resent it.
Chances are, they already have two parents. And while those two parents may not be together any more, it doesn’t make them any less parents in those children’s eyes. Being viewed as a usurper, or a bossy boots who wants to force themselves into an already existing hierarchy, you will not win any friends among your new spouse’s children. Take it easy. You can be helpful, reasonable, respectful and kind to them, all without trying to be their new mom or dad.
Join us next time for the next installment in this series, where we will be addressing the next item on our list, namely adjusting your home to accommodate new family members. Until then, if you are considering divorce and are concerned about what’s involved, or need to modify a custody agreement, contact us at 517 866 1000. The experienced family law attorneys at The Kronzek Firm are here to help you.