13 ways to support our children in blended families

Doesn’t Co-parenting suck? I know. I do it with two kids who have different dads. It’s hard. It makes me cry more often than I would like to admit. It’s agonizing and terrifying. Sometimes we work well together and sometimes we don’t. But here is a list of 13 things we can do to help the situation and we can do so without the buy-in of the other parent. Will it be easy? Hell no. But I have to believe the hard work we do on the front-end is going to be something our children look back on one day with amazement and gratitude. 

1) Incorporate the other family into conversations…and do so in a positive way! Don’t make your child feel like he/she can’t talk about mom or dad with you or you’ll be upset or will start bashing on the other family. I don’t care if the other family does that to you – take the high road. 

2) Let them have pictures up of their other family. In fact, encourage it! 
It’s an easy way to let your children know you love and accept them as yours and as the child of the other family. Allowing your kids to have some pictures of their other family in their room, if they please, is perfectly acceptable. It helps them feel connected to and apart of their other family even when they are aren’t together. It’s something my kiddos cherish!

3) Ask earnestly about their time with their other family
This isn’t a time to conduct interrogations – trying to figure out exactly what mom or dad might have done wrong. It’s asking because you love your children; not because you’re looking for reasons to hoist yourself up on your high horse as you judge the other family. Then, respond accordingly. Let your child see your face light up with delight as you hear about how amazing their time was with mom or dad. “Mommy bought you a doll? She sure does love you!”,  “Daddy played basketball with you? He sure loves to spend time with you!” Sometimes it’s hard to pretend to be excited about something we are hurt over. But remember – our offenses don’t need to be our children’s.

4) Include the other family in prayers 
When I tuck my daughter in at night we pray together. We pray protection over our household as well as her other household. If someone is sick or there is a need in her other family, we pray for healing and ask God to meet the need. You love your kids — no doubt! Part of that is learning to love what they love and get excited about what they get excited about… even their other families! 

5) Tell your kids how much their parents love them… all of their parents! 
We can just tell them we love them and let their other families be responsible to tell them the same. There would be nothing wrong with that. But I’m assuming you, much like me, desire for your kids to grow to be secure in their identity. You want them to know everything about who they are and their family situation is completely lovable. So…there presents another opportunity for us to get uncomfortable and go beyond what’s expected. An opportunity to regularly tell our children how much we love them and how much their other families love them too! Should our kids feel insecure about the love their other parent’s have for them when they are around us? Goodness, I hope not! 

6) Go the extra mile at holidays! 
Sure we can spitefully send our kids out the door Christmas morning still in their pj’s with their bedhead hair – as we rightfully grieve the loss of yet another holiday without them. Or, we can send them out the door in nice clothes, prepared to have a special visit with their other family! Yes, we can take our kids to get pictures on Santa’s lap or arrange photoshoots for birthdays and we can keep the photos to ourselves. We can justify that if the other family “cared” they would pay to do the same. Or we can just share the photos even if we arranged and paid for them! 

7) Celebrate the other parents on Father’s Day and Mother’s Day 
Showing them appreciation is not about your feelings towards them as much as it is truly giving a gift to the children involved. Every year I take my kids to pick out cards for their other parents for Father’s Day and Mother’s Day. They decorate them however they want (I help the toddler do hand and footprints) and I usually sign it too with a brief note, thanking the other person for their love and support of our child. I also have my daughter call her stepmom and wish her a happy Mother’s Day over the phone since she is with me that day. It’s not always easy and I don’t always want to. It doesn’t mean I agree with their parenting style and decisions. It’s just a simple way to put our pride aside and try to keep unity and peace for our children who deserve better than living in a war-zone.

8) Encourage contact with the other family!
I understand some relationships may be strained from the breakup / divorce. But if some aren’t or have been mended, nourish them in a healthy way! My son’s Grandma and Aunt know they can call or FaceTime him any time they want. I send pictures of my kids to the other families and let them see cute milestones or fun activities the child was involved in, so they can be apart of it even if they weren’t there. I try to remember my daughter’s, half-sister’s birthday’s and have my daughter call to wish them a Happy Birthday if she is with me. Things like this are extra. Of course you and I don’t have to do them. They aren’t court-ordered. But it’s an amazing way to show our children love in a way that is meaningful to them and honoring to their other family.

9) Change your perspective of the step-parent. 
Maybe they are a decent person but your insecurity overshadows your ability to see that. Or maybe they are a complete jerk that you have every reason to hate. Either way, be secure in your role as the biological mom or dad. You can’t be replaced and ultimately, you hold more power and influence in your child’s life. So be secure in that and appreciate the backup support the step-parent offers. It’s more valuable to make sure the person influencing our children when we aren’t around, know that they are valued and appreciated; rather than waste time tearing them down or causing drama out of our own insecurity!

10) Never speak poorly of the other family.
It causes insecurity in your child since they identify with both of their families. Plain and simple. 

11) Point out features of your child that look like their other parent in a positive way!
Hey kid… you’re cute! When you do that face that looks just like your daddy, I still think you’re cute! Yeah, when you do your wide-eyed gaze or your big squinty smile and your nose crinkles when you belly laugh and you look just like him… yeah, that face! You’re so stinking cute! 

12) Don’t jump to conclusions about the other family based on what your child said
They will try to manipulate the families against each other to get the benefit most beneficial to themselves. Immature, but expected. What’s even more immature though, is full-grown adults playing into the manipulation! 

If your child says something negative about the other parent, show limited or no emotions right in front of them. Don’t give the reaction they are prodding for! Later, ask the other parent (without accusing!) if they really did say or do what your child said. If they deny it, take their word for it unless you have undeniable proof otherwise and it’s a hill you’re willing to die on. Otherwise, hear them out graciously and move on. 

If the relationship is not good and you can’t do that, just kindly say to your child “Oh, I am sure mommy wouldn’t say that. She loves you so much and that doesn’t sound like something she would say about your family.” or “Maybe that’s not what your daddy meant. Maybe he said it the wrong way.”

Last and most importantly…

Remember, making your child feel loved is more important than your ego. One day, it won’t matter who saw the baby take his or her first steps, who bought the coolest Christmas presents, who took the child on the best vacations or which family did what for the child. What will matter is if your child grows up to be a confident adult who is secure in him or herself and who treats other’s with respect. That won’t happen from family fued’s fueled by the drama of the grown adults insecurities and fears. It will only happen when our egos and fears are completely laid to rest so we can think with a clear mind on what is best for our children.  

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