Transitions are normal in a blended family
As a step parent in a blended family, you may wonder how your own children and your step kids feel about transitioning between two homes, especially during school vacations. Navigating the life changes inherent in having to split their time between divorced parents is difficult enough, but when you add step parents and step siblings to the mix, it can be hard for kids to know where they fit in and how to feel.
Recognizing visitation transitions
During the summer school break, your blended family home may be full of children from previous relationships, or perhaps your custodial children are with their other parent for summer visitation. Either way, the kids are probably feeling a little uncertain about what is expected of them. They may wonder if they will be allowed to telephone their custodial parent, whether they will be able to stay in touch with friends, and how they should act around their step parent and step siblings. Such stresses over visitation realities are common; however, transitioning back to a more normal schedule is often equally difficult.
Give visitation transitions with biological parent time to work themselves out
Depending on the age and development of the child, levels of emotional struggle, degree of difference between his or her two homes, and other factors, many kids need at least one full day to recover. This often is necessary at both ends of visitation: both on arrival at another home, and on returning to their usual home. For the first day, at least, allow the child to simply enjoy being where he is without making any demands on his time or attention except to feel thoroughly welcomed. Once he has settled in, ask your questions, listen to his comments and respond to them, and take your time getting your relationship back on track.
Prepare to have your parenting style critiqued
Not that it should make a big difference on how you and your blended family partner choose to raise the children in your house, listen with compassion and understanding if one of your kids gives a more favorable review of the way his other parent handles things. Many times, the non-custodial parent tries hard to make things easier and more fun at their house; they often feel as if they need to play catch up with their kids’ affection. Being a more responsible parent is not a license to criticize the other, nor is it necessary to point out their failings to your kids. As a matter of fact, criticizing your ex-spouse in front of the children is never a good idea. The parenting style you and your blended family partner have chosen to adopt speaks for itself, and whether they realize it or not, kids thrive in a stable atmosphere where they know what is expected of them.
Give yourself a break
If you can, schedule visitations to and from your step family home during the same time period. If your kids and those of your spouse are all away at the same time, you get more time to yourselves to invest in your relationship, travel, take part in adult activities, and to enjoy the peace and quiet! Take advantage of any and all opportunities to re-connect and celebrate your romance.
The opportunity for your child to spend time with his or her non-custodial parent is important; both to the child and to the parent. Support this connection, and do what you can to make these visitations important and satisfying experiences. Blended family life is rife with change and evolving relationships, and visitations are a prime example of how transitions affect step family kids. With understanding, love, and a clear and open mind, you can help your blended family kids navigate the changes, transitions, and the ever-evolving relationships laid out for them.