This isn’t the Olympics-Home Versus Home and how to deal
14 Jun 2016
by, Laura at WAM
Competition can lend itself to healthy habits of good self-esteem and goal setting. However, when competition is displaced within blended families, unhealthy divisions are created. Competition between parents within the blended family structure occurs frequently because the roles of parents, both bio and blended, are often challenged by one another. For example, the location of where one parent feels their child should have a birthday party at, or what curfew rules are, or when to do homework or even where they are vacationing at this year versus the other set of parents. Subsequently, our children are left trying to cope and find understanding in these differences. Depending on what age the child is when the blended family structure is established, the outcomes of any adverse parental competition can have a wide range of negative effects.
Any time there is a divorce, it can be traumatic to all family members involved. However, as the divorce rate is ever increasing, blended family structures are on the rise. When a bio parent remarries, the role of the new family parent(s) is integral in the blended family structure. As the children learn this new person, so is the blended parent learning how to appropriately demonstrate his or her love for their inherited children. At this particular juncture the children most likely now have 2 Moms and 2 Dads. This is where it gets tricky for the children because they don’t want to be disloyal to their “original” parents.
I think a healthy approach to avoid the negative outcomes of unhealthy competition is communication with the children and all parents. It really comes down to all parents communicating not only on a macro level, but a micro one as well. The bio parents need to be OK with letting our children know that they have another mom and dad in the family that they too respect. Albeit they do not always have to agree on the way the other parents necessarily structure ideas or events. By communicating in a respectful manner and supporting one another when appropriate the children maintain a healthy level esteem between households. In a perfect world, all four adults could achieve this level of support and understanding. However, this isn’t always the case and it is not as easy as it may seem. I understand the challenges that result in communication especially with different vantage points, but it benefits the children tremendously when all parents can demonstrate a proper level of respect to one another. And yet, in most cases this is close to impossible. And why is this so? All four parents have to on board with the aforementioned.
I remember when I married my husband and I inherited 3 amazing kids, I told them how I not only loved their dad, but I made a promise that I love them with all my heart too. To this day, I am certain they know that this holds truth. However, since the day I married my husband obstacles specifically with the topic of inner family competition/roles with their bio mom have burdened our children with anxiety, feelings of disloyalty, and sadness. Though I remained calm on the outside, my heart broke inside for them, as I knew that we were all going to hurdle these obstacles for a while and might have residual effects.
With the introduction of me, “the blended” mom, came much duress from the bio mom. Anything that I suggested came with a refuted argument in return. Instead of hurting me (if that was her intent), the children subsequently developed an unhealthy level of anxiety. We bonded through this time, but when it came to instances where the bio mom was at an event, a difference in all of the kids became noticeable. They all felt compelled to reassure the bio mom of her superiority and their loyalty to her. Each time this had occurred I felt left in the shadows and had feelings of being nothing more than a glorified babysitter! Many years later one of our kids admitted that he couldn’t say if it were me whom introduced something they so enjoyed such as books, movies, clothes, sports, ect. to the bio mom or he would be punished in some way.
We all want what is best for our children regardless of how we acquired our children. My suggestion is we all accept that the blended family structure has 2 Moms and 2 Dads. In my experiences with bio parents, they seem to have difficulty with the new family structure for their own ego. Alternately, by all parents accepting that there are 2 Moms and 2 Dads our children can gain a much healthier environment between family homes, and ultimately decrease the chance to tarnish healthy relationships with blended parents.
What have been your experiences with interpersonal communication between blended and bio parents? Have you experienced similar situations where your kids are anxious about events due to loyalty binds with the bio parents? We would love to hear from you!
With love and respect,
Laura at WAM