Kids playingIt’s easy to get wrapped up in your own self pity – thoughts about how hard stepcoupling is, resentments and jealousies about the stepchildren, the exes, etc…you know the issues!

But what about the kids? What are they dealing with? Stepcoupling is hard on them too.

The mere fact that their biological parents are no longer together, and one or both parents are with new partners is devastating to kids.

Remarriage doesn’t mean that the kids don’t still love and miss their absent biological parents terribly. Divorce and remarriage is upsetting and confusing to children. Just so you know!

As adults in a stepcouple, you have two areas to concentrate on – one is adjusting to each other as a couple and the other is helping all the children adjust to the loss and changes in their lives.

1. Two things are important for stepcouples to know: As a stepcouple, you should understand each other’s natural ties to their biological children. Parents instinctively protect their children at all costs. If they think their kids are being hurt or in harms way, they’ll do what they need to do to make their kids safe and happy.

2. As a stepcouple, you should also understand that these bonds go both ways. Children are naturally bonded and loyal to their biological parents – present or absent. Children will protect their parents if they think they’re being maligned. Kids need biological parents to witness their growing up. If kids are denied access to parents, their curiosity, concern, and loyalty ramp up. “Absence makes the heart grow stronger.” Take a child away from a parent and watch him (or her) be upset, fall apart, get angry/confused, etc.

Stepcoupling is all about keeping present and former relationships appropriately inclusive, alive and healthy as long as possible for the sake of the children.

I offer some questions as food for thought and discussion in your stepcouple:

  • Do the children have healthy access to their biological parents?
  • Do they have permission to have a relationship with their absent biological parent without bias?
  • Are the biological/child relationships encouraged to stay alive and well over time as much as possible? What part do you play in making that happen? What are the problems and how do you deal with them?
  • How do you keep your relationship with your child alive and healthy? How does your partner do the same with his/her children? Are you supportive of each other?

Why is this so important?

I hear in my counseling office countless stories from people who were raised in families where one or both parents were unavailable when they were young and growing up. Sad statements like, “After the divorce, I never saw my father again”, “My mother left the family for another man”, “I was raised by a mean stepfather.” “My parents fought all the time and put me in the middle.” etc, etc. These losses are deep and powerful.

I encourage you to THINK ABOUT THE KIDS and do what’s in their best interest as much as possible. Your children will benefit and so will your stepcouple relationship if you both work toward encouraging positive attitudes and positive relationships between the kids and their parents. Without this effort, the costs can be high.

Is it time for an attitude check and talk with your partner about the kids and what’s best for them?

Susan Wisdom LPC
October, 2008

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