Blending Family Needs Careful Process

This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on Jun 21, 2017 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

Question: I was widowed last year and am now the single mum to 2 great kids. I’ve been dating for some time a man with 2 kids of his own. We have gotten our families together several times. The kids get along well but have significantly different personalities. My boyfriend and I have discussed the possibility of moving in with one another, and I am looking for advice on how to broach the subject with my children. I’m not sure they will see this as happy news. Thank you for your consideration.

Answer: I am going to start out by asking you to bear with me because the first part of my answer is not really what your question was about. I will come back to it, but there are things (and people) I want you to consider first. Importantly, you are first. You shared that you just lost a husband in the last year and are new to the single mum experience. Then there are your two children who have lost a dad and are getting used to having only one parent. Then, there is your new boyfriend to think about since this is a new relationship for you, and him. Then, there are his two kids to consider. This is not just one new relationship, it is six. To answer you, I would like to pose my own questions. How have your children expressed their grief over the death of their father? Are either of them having problems at school or any disturbance of mood or behavior since his death? This would be the same question I would ask of someone entering a new relationship following a divorce. Everyone handles these loses differently. You may be ready to move on, but your children may not. Also, after a loss, it may be difficult to trust your own emotions. What feels like love may just feel better than being alone. You have lots to consider. Moving in together is a really big step. My advice would be to consider this carefully. If your children do really like this person, but you decide it isn’t right, then they will experience another loss. Since you are already sensing that they may not see this as happy news, slow the pace down and see how things go as the relationships develop. Now, let’s look at your question on broaching the subject with your children. When you feel you have assessed and responded to the concerns above, start with a series of discussions about blending the families. Introduce it. Give the children time to process it. Talk about it again and hear their concerns. Think about and address their concerns. Then talk about it again. During this time, join the families together repeatedly and watch the dynamics and also how your boyfriend parents his children. How you handle major things in your children’s lives can impact them positively and negatively. This new blended family relationship is an important one. It may be a wonderful one. Moving carefully and lovingly around how these changes affect your children, shows the high value you put on their well being.

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website and click on “Referrals.”

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