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Author Topic: Validating Kids in Divorced and Blended Families  (Read 708 times)
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we can all evolve into someone beautiful

« on: March 08, 2015, 12:40:52 PM »


*Excerpted from"I Don't Have to Make Everything All Better"

By Gary and Joy Lundberg

How validation works with divorced and blended families

Recognizing the myths

~Because I love you so much you will automatically love and want my children

~Because I love you so much, my children will automatically love you and accept you as a parent

~Your children will accept me as their parent

~I will come in and help you raise your children in the way your other mate obviously was unable to do

~We will be one big happy family right away

~Now I can turn the parenting of my children over to my new mate

~Your extended family will accept me and my children as family.

~Your grown children will accept my children just like they were their own siblings

~We can deal with your ex-mate with no problem

Some of these may prove to be true; don't count on it right away. The process of blending a family, under the best conditions, takes a minimum of 5 years. Time is a major ingredient in overcoming the many needs and emotions that need to heal.

You are newlyweds

Even though one or more persons in the marriage have been married before... .you are still newlyweds.  The process of discovering each other needs to be experienced anew, this can be a struggle with a ready made family.  Yet it must be done for the new marriage to succeed.  Otherwise, you treat your new mate just like you did your "ex".

The greatest gift you can give your children is parents who love each other.  This applies to remarriages too.  A great marriage gives children something stable to hold onto. This is true even if the children are only in the home part-time.

With a divorce, there is generally much guilt, anger,  frustration, sadness, and hurt.  Also there are family members and ex-in-laws who have chosen sides.  If there was any abuse, neglect, or infidelity in the previous marriage, then the emotional scars are deep and slow to heal.  These scars often lead to the fear that the new mate will do what was done before.  Sometimes, all this emotion gets dumped on the new mate.

The parenting challenge

As the new adult on the scene, you were not there to experience the development of the family... .how issues are handled, how allowances work, what limits are flexible, what the individual characteristics are of each child. All these things developed over time.  Just as the children are adjusting to all the changes in their lives now there is a new adult to adjust to as well.

The children are making major life adjustments because their world has been turned upside down.  To top this off often ex-spouses are critical of the new spouse and the new rules.  Sometimes they tell the children they don't have to obey the new spouse or their rules. The non custodial parent may start a bidding war for the affection of the children using bribes and gifts to attempt to get the children to come to them. Often times a child will become very protective of one of the parents during a divorce.  When a remarriage occurs children can feel that their parent is being taken away from them because they must share the time and attention their parent has to give with someone else.

The natural parent will often times run on guilt because of all that the children are put through due to the divorce. There is an overwhelming need to protect the children and give them special privileges. Sometimes when the remarriage brings children into the family from both sides the same rules don't apply to all the children. Some non custodial parents feel that if they enforce the rules then their children won't want to come to their home.  Children will quickly see this and use it as a weapon to get their demands met.

Dealing with the loneliness

Divorce, no matter how filled with anger or hurt can still bring on feelings of loneliness.  Children who spend time away from a parent may experience the loss of having an intact family may express this by saying "I miss my dad" or "I miss my mom". This may bring up feelings of hurt or anger from the parent and they are tempted to say "Well, that's too bad.  You will just have to get used to it." A child needs to be able to adjust and know it is all right to express his feelings.  The statement "It's alright to miss him" will usually allow him to put his feelings in some kind of order. Dumping unresolved feelings on your child will backfire and cause the child to resent you.

Communicating with your ex

Validating your ex may be the last thing you want to do; however, it may be the wisest choice you will make.  If you will accept your spouse as an important person in the life of your child and treat them with the respect you yourself would like, a heavy burden of hate and anger can be lifted from your shoulders.  A little give-and-take for the good of the child is well worth it.  Unnecessarily strict boundaries creates avoidable problems between the parents and the child, anxiety for the child and inhibits the  ability to negotiate on other needs of the child. If the give-and-take is inappropriately taken advantage of, then boundaries may need to be established--always with respect.

Validation and the respectful setting of boundaries bring greater peace between the parents, always spilling over to help create a more peaceful life for the child.

Answering the questions

Questions need to be answered adequately without having to give every detail.  The answer to your children's questions need to be age appropriate.

Some children are afraid to ask questions because they witnessed the pain their parents went through and they do not want to add to that pain.

Some children believe they caused the divorce or separation.  Most of the questions children ask can be handled with simple answers that will dispel their fears and incorrect assumptions.

Questions where infidelity occurred: "why did daddy leave?" "Your dad has fallen in love with another person and has chosen to go with her and I am very sad." If the child asks "why?" a simple answer could be "I really don't know. You will have to ask dad." Let the child  express her feelings and validate them. If your child wants to cry and you feel like crying, cry together. If you are the one who is leaving the marriage for another mate take responsibility for your actions and choices.  This may mean there is no definitive answer that will satisfy either your children or anyone else. Don't justify your actions by assigning fault to your mate, you will end up looking foolish. After all, no one forced you to make the choices you made; they are your own. "I know you may not understand this, but I am no longer in love with your mother and I am in love with another woman by the name of _______." "Why?" your child will most likely ask. Remember... to destroy your ex in the eyes of your child or anyone else will not make you look good and can hurt the children and come back to haunt you. Answer all questions gently and without guile of any kind  Since children have an enormous stake in both Mom and Dad, they deserve a full, kind, careful, and honest discussion.

Questions where incompatibility was the cause for divorce: When your child asks the "why" question a simple answer is: "We were no longer able to get along married." When the child asks "why" again... .the statement could be "We have too many differences (opinions, desires, goals, values, etc.), and we are not able to make them match." When you do not say bad things about the other person your child may ask "Then why did you get divorced?" Patiently answer, letting the child take the questioning to an end that will satisfy him as much as is possible. Saying bad things about your ex may deeply hurt your child and ultimately end with your child asking "Why do you hate my mom (dad)? Why couldn't you have stayed together for my sake?", or "Whose fault was it?" Work the answers to these questions out in your mind before they are asked. This may be the ultimate test of your goodness and humility. Such answers may require in part a humble and sincere apology for the difficulty that the divorce has caused the child.

Questions when the child feels to blame: Was it my fault that you got divorced?" Be sure to reinforce that the divorce was not in any way his fault.

Finding answers for your children concerning divorce, infidelity, or unfulfilled promises of a noncustodial parent is probably one of the hardest tasks. When children hurt or struggle, you want to make them all better. As you realize you cannot, anger may well up inside of you toward your ex-mate and it may get dumped on your children or new mate. Validate your children's feelings and then, just LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN, and UNDERSTAND. If you do more, you may end up putting the children in the  middle where they cannot understand and feel pushed into making a choice between the two parents.

 BPDd-13 Residential Treatment - keep believing in miracles
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we can all evolve into someone beautiful

« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2015, 08:51:17 AM »


*Excerpted from"I Don't Have to Make Everything All Better"

By Gary and Joy Lundberg

The need for boundaries

Children have one main job in life:  To get their own needs met at all cost.

In order to accomplish this they will use whatever tools they can find.  They learn the art of manipulation at a very young age.  They learn it because we as parents usually teach them.  They learn they can get their own way by smiling coyly, begging, whining, crying, screaming, or throwing a tantrum, particularly in public places.  They also learn how to play one parent against the other.  Children begin to grow up when they learn there are boundaries within which they must put their own needs and desires. They must learn to find a balance between their own needs and the needs of others.  If children do not learn boundaries, then they live in an unreal world of consideration for self only and, as they get older and find that other people have boundaries, they get angry and become abusive.

Children who go through divorce learn they have a few more tools to use to get their own needs met. They now have 3 or 4  parents to play against each other.  They recognize the guilt feelings being experienced by their parents and take full advantage of them. Then there are the stepsiblings to be used as a club to gain an advantage.  This sounds pessimistic and calculating; however, this is often the same as in a family in which no divorce has occurred.  In divorced families the number of players and their positions are different and the emotions often run deeper and are in greater turmoil.

You are not my Mom (Dad)

These words can really sting... ."You can't tell me what to do. You are not my Mom (Dad)." If you counterattack the natural parent may run to the rescue of the child and divide a couple. The battle is won by the child. Words have only the power we allow them to have.

When parenting styles differ children will use this to get their needs met and play one parent against the other.  Parents need to work out the differences they may have in parenting styles and meet each other's needs so that they can work together.  What your children call their stepparent is their choice.  When given a choice that will be respected they will chose respectfully.  "I want you to know that I recognize that I am not your Father.  You have a father and he will always be your father. I am your mother's husband and I love her very much and will support her, and I want very much to be your friend. Sometimes it is hard to know what to call me. I want you to be comfortable, so if you want to call me ":)ad" or by my first name, either one is fine with me." Giving children this choice is a relief to them and very validating. Even when the children have made their choice there may be times when they throw the phrase "you're not my dad" at you.  Validate that and repeat "You are right, I'm not your dad. However, I am your mother's husband and I support her rules." The child may say "I don't like that rule." Validate by replying "That's all right to not like the rule and we can discuss it when Mom gets home. Until then, the rule will be followed."

Setting the rules in a blended family

Rules in any family can be set only when both parents agree to them and they apply to all the children and for the most part to the adults also. If the children sense that the parents are divided on the rules instead of united, they will then use that as a weapon to get their needs met by skillfully playing one parent against the other.  Parents need to be united in maintaining the family rules in order to stop being manipulated by their children. The couple must first meet privately and decide the basic rules they can both support, then meet with each child separately. During this meeting the natural parent needs to take the lead. Discuss the new needs of the blended family and get suggestions on rules and procedures from the children with the stepparent participating. After the rules and procedures are set the stepparent voices their support to the natural parent and the rules. If the children state "We didn't used to have all these rules, I don't like it" validate the statement by saying "You are right and I understand you don't like it.  It was a struggle when our family changed and the rules needed to change." Don't say more as this muddies the discussion.  Remember, you don't have to make it all better, just understand the child's point of view. Children will fight the rules to get their needs met. When this occurs listen to the child and say "Nevertheless, the rules must be followed." Remember as well, that unequal treatment is interpreted by children as unequal love.  

How do you handle the statement of a child who says "My mom (dad) says I don't have to obey your rules (you)"? While this is surely going to cause you upset and anger don't turn your feelings to your child.  It may well be possible that the other natural parent did not say this.  Children can often times stretch the truth or even lie (whoever said children never lie never had children) to get their needs met.  A parent might reply "Son, I hear what you are saying. However, your mother (father) has rules in her home and I expect you to obey those. We have rules in our home and I expect you to obey them, even if they are different." In reply your child might say "Then I don't want to come visit you anymore."

This is the ultimate weapon children will use to manipulate the noncustodial parent. Don't give into the child.  Once you do it will be used over and over again to.  Parents might reply by gently, kindly, firmly saying "That would make me very sad and would not be my choice.  I will continue to invite you to come because I love you, and I realize you have a choice to come or not. I hope you will come. We will always attempt to be fair and there will always be rules." Continue to invite the child and do not bribe them.

The more energy you use to create as stable and normal a home life as possible, the more appealing your home will be to your children. Your home will then be a safe place and a pleasant place for your children to be. The other parents home is not something you can work on.  The only person you can control is yourself.  You are not in competition with the other parent. To be in competition is to set yourself up for manipulation.

Unfulfilled Promises

Unfulfilled promises are hurtful to anyone and after a divorce they produce even stronger emotions. When your child asks "why didn't daddy come pick me up?", "Why didn't mommy send me a birthday present?", "Why hasn't Daddy come to see me?" The first answer can be "I don't know." When your child expresses anger, frustration, sadness validate those feelings "I think I would be angry too" When the child asks "why... ." again refer the child back to the source. Repeat "I don't know. I guess you will have to talk to Mom when you see her next."  Talking down the other parent will not do anyone any good and will often come back to haunt the parent who does it.

The more people who love

The more people in a child's life that love them and care about them the better off they are.  Grandparents and other extended family can help children of divorce by listening, validating and being a safe person for the child to express their feelings to and honestly answer questions they have about the divorce.  If necessary, parents can speak with extended family about not talking the other parent down, how to validate, and be that safe person.

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 BPDd-13 Residential Treatment - keep believing in miracles
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