Posts Tagged ‘blended families’

Blending Families – what you should know

Written by sharon on . Posted in Blog

While the divorce rate dropped 18% between 2008 and 2016 and is currently around 32%, divorced individuals meeting new partners continue to come together with their children and attempt to “blend” families. Though best intention may be at the heart of the desire to bring two families together, successful outcomes seem few and far between (with more anecdotal than hard research data available). As a therapist who does work in the area of grief and bereavement and has a blended family, I feel the complications in trying to unite two families are mostly tied to themes of loss.

The potential pitfalls that blended families will have to navigate are complex. Here are the top 10:

  1. Conflict over differing boundaries – what is and isn’t okay in each family.
  2. Confusion and anger about differing rules and consequences.
  3. Loss related to the definitive ending of a child’s original family constellation is triggered (children usually hold out hope that biological parents may unite).
  4. For children to embrace a stepparent may feel like a violation of loyalty to the child’s biological parent.
  5. For children whose parents have been divorced for some time, the introduction of a new spouse may feel like another loss and bring up fear that they will be loved less (children tend to think of love as finite). Anxiety and depression may manifest.
  6. Sharing of one’s home, personal belongings, community space, bedroom may trigger anger and further feelings of loss for children.
  7. Children may feel pulled in many ways in terms of their role as they go back and forth between biological parents and try to navigate different households.
  8. Parents may struggle to form attachments with their step children and stepchildren may struggle to form attachments with their stepparents.
  9. Relationships with ex-wives and ex-husband’s take on another degree of complexity for adults that affect the children.
  10. Financial equity of all children may be especially difficult when ex- spouses are involved.

My goal in highlighting these difficulties is not to deter people from attempting to blend families. The blending of families can benefit children in many positive ways and provide stability and a healthy environment that was previously missing from their lives. However, what most families fail to do is enter counseling prior to blending in an effort to anticipate and resolve many of the issues above, which may be further complicated by children’s ages, ethnicity, and cultural and religious factors. Instead, couples forge ahead hoping that love and patience will be enough.

Hopefully, this blog will help adults have a deeper understanding of the potential issues that may arise. If you’re contemplating blending your family, I encourage you to work with a mental health professional who has experience in this area and who can help guide you and your loved ones in a way that will support the best possible outcome for everybody. Anticipating issues, talking them through, and figuring how to handle them before they arise is key.

Reference: University of Maryland; The Coming Divorce Decline, Philip Cowen, https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/h2sk6/

Are You Optimizing your Public School Options to Help Your Child?

Written by sharon on . Posted in Blog

As a provider of therapy and school counseling services, it’s apparent to me that parents often have no idea how to optimize public school options to make sure kids who are going through a difficult time are well supported in their academic environment. School counselors (who are not therapists), for the most part, have huge numbers of kids that they are overseeing, with ratios sometimes as high as 1 to 400. Some are academic advisors only; some are personal and social counselors; and others have dual functions. Understanding your school’s resources and using them are very much worth a parent’s time in an effort to help their child.

Kids spend almost 30 hours of their week in the school setting, so it can make a significant difference to your child if you let teachers and the school counselor be aware of issues such as low self esteem, depression, learning disorders, anxiety, fears of bullying or any ongoing bulling that you know about. Similarly, it’s in your child’s best interest that teachers and counselors be informed about family changes such as separation, divorce, death, illness, remarriage, and blended families. While, as parents, we may sometimes feel we want to keep certain events in our lives private from school, the benefit to your child when school personnel are informed far outweighs the drawbacks. In addition to teachers being more kind, sensitive to and patient with your child’s behavioral changes, counselors can often form a special bond with your child and check in with him/her one or more times a week. If your child needs more formal support, 504 Plans or Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) may be called for to put in place and will require involvement of the school psychologist.

The best way to communicate with your school’s personnel is by telephone with a follow up e-mail referring to your conversation and your request for assistance. Documenting your requests and the school’s agreed interventions or measures of support is recommended. It will be up to you to be your child’s best advocate and make sure what the school agreed to is followed through on. For children who need extensive accommodations as part of Individualized Education Plans, if affordable, parents may wish to hire an education advocate to guide them through the IEP process and optimize services.

During difficult and changing times, school can become a major stressor for your child. When parents and schools work together, the school environment can be one that offers children greatly needed support and predictability to navigate those difficult times.