Q & A: How do we prevent alienating each other
when our kids have step-sibling problems?
My husband and I will be married one year this coming March. We fell in love quickly. We met in November, engaged in January and married in March. We were both previously married for 10 years...in each case our spouses left us for other people (whom they are still with). In those unions we created 5 children. My children are: boy 6, and a girl 4. My husband's children are: girl 13, girl 11, and boy 7. We have my children 90% of the time. Their dad picks them up every third weekend and he lives 2.5 hours away in a small town. My husband has his children 45% of the time, every Wed/Thur/Fri, and then every second weekend. His ex-wife lives approx 10 minutes away from us. Our relationship with our Exs is very good for we have both forgiven them and healed from the pain of that relationship. We also believe that the kids didnít ask to be a part of divorce and we are the adults so we suck it up even if times are awkward. To give you and idea about our relationship with our Exs....I have hugged my husbands ex-wife when the occasion arose for it....and my husband handled my Ex's RESP for our children....so it is very amicable. We do it for our children mainly so they can see that forgiveness does work.
We recently took a family vacation to Disney and some real issues came forth. We had been house boating on a small boat in the summer as a family and then again to a mountain resort for a long weekend, so this wasn't our first family time spent all together. But this holiday felt very different. Problems arose between our children, resulting in us being on different teams, or so it felt. He was trying to protect and listen to his kids, and I was trying to do the same for mine. It caused a division between us as a couple and I felt very alone. My husband has a very tight relationship with his kids and he likes that he does. Sometimes this group is so tight it doesnít allow others (me and my kids) in. All my kids had was me to stand up for them.....my husbands kids had their siblings, their dad and their mom (she texted them and called them regularly). Of course I am speaking from my point of view, but I am the one writing so I'm sure there are two sides to seeing everything clearly.
I will be honest, when I feel my kids are being attacked my motherly instincts kick in. I just felt that my husband and I lacked the understanding of what to do in some circumstances. I thought it should be handled one way, him another. Since most rides we went on we couldnít sit as a family of seven so again we split into his kids and mine....causing more of a division or so I felt. With my kids being so young I felt like this Disney vacation was primarily for my husbands kids.....and we were just guests who were invited along. This wedge that was forming kept getting worse especially when I perceived that my husband was pulling away from me and my kids instead of wanting to draw together to solve problems.
Type Of Reply Sought:
How do we prevent alienating each other when our kids have step-sibling problems? How do we not climb into mama and papa bear protective mode? We understand that if we donít take care of each other then this blended family doesn't exist. How do we intervene without stepping on everyoneís personalities or roles (birth orders) etc. We have king of the week every Thursday where we celebrate one person that evening...they pick the meal, dessert, eat from a special plate and cup and we start the meal with warm fuzzies about the person. The kids seem to really look forward to these meals...but its still not bringing them any closer together. When we got together we decided it was alright if our kids didnít love or even like each other, but they did have to respect each other. Is it an unreal expectation for our children have any empathy for their step-siblings so we can all be a tight group of seven instead of 4 and three? We donít have the history but are trying to create some joining of lives and loves with our children. Weíd like to seek some step-family counselling...the older kids wonít like it but I think its necessary to make sure we keep our train on the track. Thanks for your time.
are our comments and suggestions to the "Ask an Expert Question" you
forwarded to the Stepfamily Foundation of Alberta yesterday. They are listed
essentially in the order they were stated in our discussion; and draw from the
additional information you provided on the "Ask an Expert
of these topics are covered in detail in our course
Building Stepfamilies That Work.
It includes a host of very specific exercises, tools, strategies and techniques
that have been proven to work well for the vast majority of problems
stepfamilies encounter. A home-study version of the course will soon be
available from the Stepfamily Foundation of Alberta web site (www.stepfamily.ca).
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