Participants: Alanzo Smith, June Smith
Series Code: MGH
Program Code: MGH000072
00:30 Welcome to Marriage In God's Hands.
00:33 I'm Alanzo Smith and this is my wife, June.
00:37 And we're here today to talk about challenges children face
00:43 in blended families.
00:45 Now this is a topic that affects a lot of people
00:51 around the world because we do have a lot of blended families.
00:56 But when we say "blended families", what are we
00:59 talking about here?
01:00 The assumption most people make is that when we talk about
01:05 families, we're talking about people who fell in love,
01:10 got married, and started a family.
01:12 But we have so many different family forms.
01:14 So the blended family is one form where the assumption is
01:19 each person in the family existed in
01:22 another family before.
01:24 So you may have been a widowed person who had children
01:27 or you might have been divorced, and now you're both
01:30 coming together to start a new family.
01:32 So you're bringing your children from the family before
01:37 and now we're blending.
01:38 So in this kind of a setting, we do have a lot of children
01:44 that are existing today in blended families.
01:48 Do you have an idea what percentage this might be?
01:51 Usually the statistics show that there are about 60% of
01:54 adolescents who exist in blended families;
01:58 children who will live with someone other than their
02:01 biological parent before they actually reach age 18.
02:06 Now we have the nuclear family and we have the blended family,
02:13 and there are certain problems that co-exists with both
02:18 family settings and family structure.
02:22 But one could easily imagine that with the blended families,
02:26 there are additional problems, new sets of rules here.
02:30 What are we talking about?
02:32 You can well imagine if a family existed before
02:36 that there is a network out there; their in-laws,
02:39 their extended families, etc.
02:41 So that here you have two sets of families with all these
02:45 dynamics going on who are now coming together to
02:48 start a new family.
02:50 So you have a set of children who have grandparents
02:54 from the original set of parents, and then you have
02:58 the other parent who have children
03:00 with other grandparents.
03:02 And now you have these in-laws and uncles and aunts.
03:04 And so that's going to redefine the structure of the family.
03:08 But that blending, however, one should not assume that
03:12 it's an easy blending.
03:13 Because you could have conflicts like when there are holidays.
03:18 One set of grandchildren may want to go to that grandparent
03:23 or those grandparents, and the other set may
03:25 want to go to the other.
03:26 So you have a family that we say, they're blended,
03:29 but here now it's holiday time and they are split apart,
03:32 they're going different ways.
03:34 That's a strong possibility.
03:35 That happens frequently and so you have to develop new
03:39 boundaries, establish different sets of rules, so that everybody
03:43 hopefully can be agreed.
03:45 I would imagine also that finance would be one of the
03:49 challenges that blended families would face,
03:51 as we talk about alimony and those things.
03:55 If that is involved, certainly the new family is going to
03:59 have to make adjustments.
04:01 There will be very different ways in which the resources
04:05 are allocated or even available to assist the new family.
04:10 And we're talking about child support and that kind of thing.
04:12 Now this strikes a chord in my mind.
04:20 Those of you listening and you're not married,
04:23 but there is someone that you're in love with and
04:27 there's this possibility that you will form a blended family,
04:30 it is very important for you to go into counseling.
04:36 This is important.
04:37 You know, we say nuclear families getting together
04:41 should go through premarital counseling, and that is
04:44 so important, but now when you are going into a blended family
04:48 situation, the challenges are even greater.
04:51 Hence the need for counseling.
04:54 And we're not talking about short-term counseling now.
04:56 It should be long-term counseling.
04:58 We certainly recommend that all individuals considering
05:03 a marriage, whether you are a first time marriage
05:06 as in a nuclear setting, or a blended family,
05:08 you really do need to go into discuss many and most of
05:12 the issues that you will likely face.
05:15 How about the relationship with the ex-spouse?
05:18 I am marrying this individual who was married before.
05:23 Is there any concern I should have or anything about
05:28 his or her ex-spouse?
05:30 That sometimes becomes another issue in the relationship.
05:34 You have children with an ex-spouse and that person is
05:38 going to be involved in your life.
05:40 And so, yes, there are new sets of rules that will
05:42 have to be established.
05:43 And the partner who is the new step-father or husband
05:50 will need to work with the wife, or vice versa, to accommodate
05:55 the relationship with the ex-spouse.
05:58 We're talking about children in blended families and
06:03 some of the challenges that they face.
06:05 And you can imagine that a child or children moving into
06:09 a new home, a new environment, a new setting, after they had
06:13 bonded and settled in one family form before,
06:17 it would pose certain challenges.
06:19 For example, for the child there's this fear of the future.
06:24 "What's going to happen to Me?"
06:25 They had anchored their life, their hope, their everything,
06:29 in the first family setting.
06:31 And now they're thrust into a new one.
06:33 And for them they're saying, "Will this break up again?
06:36 Should I hold on or latch on to this family to say, this is it?
06:41 Or four, five, six years down the road, is there going to be
06:44 another disruption in this family?"
06:46 So the fear of the future is a logical concern for children.
06:51 Sometimes it actually causes trauma.
06:54 The child just becomes totally upset and frightened
07:00 that their life is disrupted and it is difficult
07:04 for them to cope.
07:05 And so they just get real angry, frustrated, they get clingy
07:11 to the custodial parent, etc.
07:13 They sometimes fear abandonment.
07:15 The reality is, if you grow up with your mom and dad
07:18 in your home and all of a sudden you're thrust into a new family,
07:22 it's a little frightening for a child to understand
07:24 those dynamics, sometime even for the adult themselves really.
07:27 But yes, it creates real trauma for the child sometimes.
07:31 And parents, sometimes you will notice a kind of a
07:35 passive aggressive behavior in your child or in your children.
07:39 And sometimes you will not know where this is coming from
07:41 or why they're acting up so suddenly and you say,
07:44 is this the child I had 5 years or 10 or whatever
07:47 the period of time might be.
07:49 And you are wondering.
07:50 But you need to understand that sometimes it is because of this
07:53 transition, this new family that they have been brought into.
07:57 And sometimes a child has not accepted fully this transition
08:01 and so they develop this passive aggressive behavior.
08:04 Usually, Alanzo, what tends to happen at times is the parents
08:07 who get together, who fall in love and they're now
08:09 all passionate about this new relationship, they're focused
08:12 tends to be on the lover; the new husband, the new wife.
08:17 And they just assume that the child is equally excited
08:20 and will adapt, not understanding that the
08:24 emotional trauma or problems exist in the ways they do.
08:29 So it is really important that blended families discuss these
08:33 issues before and learn about how to deal with them.
08:36 And sometimes too, June, there's what you call
08:40 an adjustment to the financial status of the home
08:45 and of the children.
08:48 Because it could be that in the first marriage it was a more
08:51 affluent home, the standard of living was at a certain level
08:57 and the child was in a full sized house, had his or her own
09:02 bedroom, etc, etc, a backyard to play in.
09:05 But in this new family, they might have moved into an
09:07 apartment, they might have to share bedrooms with another
09:11 sibling that they're not so much accustomed to.
09:13 And there are so many different changes, the standard of living
09:16 has decreased to some extent.
09:19 And while the two lovers can make the adjustment because
09:23 you're in love and you understand what's happening
09:27 and you're willing to make that adjustment, for the child,
09:30 they can't understand why.
09:31 "Why did you have to break up?"
09:32 "Why did I have to leave my mommy?"
09:34 "Why did I have to leave my daddy?"
09:35 "And look what I'm reduced to now. "
09:37 So sometimes that can cause problems for you.
09:40 And as a result, you have increased the potential
09:43 for increased psychological needs.
09:45 You have children who, as I said, younger children
09:48 get traumatized, adolescents start acting out.
09:51 There are conflicts between the new step parent
09:54 in the way they're administering discipline or boundaries
09:57 and it just becomes sometimes conflictual.
10:00 Now in some blended families, there are easy and smooth
10:03 transitions and everyone seems to get along.
10:05 But in others, you have a lot of problems.
10:08 I actually heard of a situation where there was a blended family
10:13 and the young children from mother's or wife's
10:17 original marriage were joined with two other children
10:22 from the father's or husband's family.
10:25 And these four children were now living in the same home
10:28 and they just could not get along with the step mother
10:32 because they saw her as replacing their mother.
10:37 And although the new wife had nothing to do with the
10:40 relationship that broke down, the children blamed her.
10:44 She becomes the victim.
10:46 And she had such problems just trying to explain to them
10:50 that she loves them and she's, you know, never going to
10:53 replace their mom, but she is now their step mother
10:56 and it's okay.
10:57 The kids just never accepted her.
10:58 We're talking about conditions in the home of blended families
11:02 and some of the challenges that children face.
11:06 You know, it is also possible that a child could move
11:11 from a home where there was a positive role model
11:14 into a home where the role model is not so positive.
11:17 They might have had a mommy or a daddy that
11:20 re-enforces clear boundaries and relates to them
11:25 in a special way, they were hugging, they were kissing,
11:28 touching, whatever it was.
11:29 They were accustomed to what they use to get.
11:32 Now they moved into another family and they might be
11:34 getting from one parent but the other parent is not there.
11:38 And so that could create a problem as well.
11:41 And that leads the child to become irritable,
11:44 to become clingy to the custodial parent,
11:47 to really have difficulties in adjusting to this new context.
11:55 The assumption we're making here, June, is that the children
11:58 we're talking about are older ones.
12:01 You know, 12 and 13 and beyond.
12:04 But sometimes we have younger children, smaller ones,
12:08 in this kind of a situation.
12:10 And they're processing is far different.
12:13 What are some of the things that one could expect to see
12:17 in the life of a younger child who is caught up in this
12:20 blended family structure?
12:22 It's even worse for the younger child.
12:23 They get really attached to the custodial parent.
12:26 In fact, there's almost separation anxiety
12:28 because in the child's mind, this one parent that
12:31 I now have is all I have and will they leave as well
12:35 or will I be abandoned.
12:37 And so they get irritable, they have difficulties adjusting
12:40 to their eating habits.
12:42 If they're in school, they just don't perform well or
12:46 they're acting out in ways that are real strange in character.
12:49 So these kids really need a lot of understanding and support
12:52 in order to adjust to the new setting.
12:54 We're talking about challenges children face
12:59 in blended families.
13:00 We have a lot more to talk about when we come back.
13:03 We have to take a break now, but we will come back.
13:06 We want you to stay with us because this
13:09 is an important topic.
13:10 There are so many families that are involved in this situation.
13:14 And the children, they are the ones that we want you to
13:17 understand some of the issues, the challenges, the pain,
13:20 the problems that they're going through, their frustration.
13:23 The more you understand, the better you're able
13:25 to help your children.
13:26 Remember, don't go away. We'll be right back.
13:29 Thank you.
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14:10 Welcome back to Marriage In God's Hands.
14:13 We're talking about blended families and the challenges
14:17 that children face.
14:19 Well, we have looked at some of the issues and we talked about
14:24 the problems children can possibly face as they
14:29 move into this new environment.
14:31 What would you consider to be some of the basic needs
14:35 of these children in this setting?
14:39 As we said, here are these kids who are just picked out
14:43 from their original setting and placed in a strange setting.
14:47 As much as they may know the individuals in the new dynamic,
14:51 the reality is that this child is processing,
14:55 "What's going to happen to me?
14:56 I lived with my mom for a long time after the death of my dad,
15:02 or the separation of my parents, and now, hmmm, I'm going to
15:06 have to share rooms with two other people?
15:09 Or I'm going to have a new dad who is going to
15:12 probably discipline me when I do something wrong. "
15:15 Or there's a...
15:16 Have I lost my dad now because of this new lover he has?
15:21 Have I lost my mom now because of this new lover she has?
15:25 No longer is all the attention on me.
15:28 So all those dynamics are going.
15:30 You know, I had a classic case where this 9 year old,
15:35 she was doing very well in school, and then
15:38 all of a sudden the mother remarried.
15:42 And her grades just started plunging.
15:46 I'm talking about a girl who was a straight "A" child in school,
15:50 she now started making "C's" and "D's" and "F's".
15:54 And the mother could not understand.
15:56 It was not until they went through counseling
15:59 they realized that there was a strong correlation between
16:02 the new marriage and the child's performance.
16:04 Because before she use to sleep with her mom,
16:08 they'd share a bed, they'd go out together on
16:11 vacations, and what have you.
16:12 And it was just the two of them bonding.
16:14 But in this case now, someone replaced her.
16:17 She could no longer sleep in the bed with her mom,
16:19 somebody else was sleeping there.
16:20 She did not have this exclusivity with her mom
16:23 and that created the problem.
16:25 And for a child, you can understand how
16:28 difficult that must be.
16:29 But the reality is, this is a new setting and the child...
16:33 life has to go on, as it were.
16:35 And so what we want to do now is talk about how do you
16:38 adapt and what should parents do to assist the children
16:41 in meeting these needs.
16:43 First of all, I think the parent should assure the child
16:48 of their love and of safety.
16:52 Help them to understand, you have not lost your mommy,
16:55 you have not lost your daddy, and I love you.
16:58 And by taking on a new person does not change your role
17:03 and your relationship with me.
17:04 That assurance is very, very important and provides safety
17:08 and comfort for the child or for the children.
17:11 And I think more importantly, the new parent, the step parent,
17:17 really needs to be sensitive to the whining and the
17:20 upset of the child.
17:21 Because what tends to happen is the step parent has difficulty
17:25 accepting the behavior.
17:27 Sometimes they'll come in and say,
17:28 "Oh, you have spoiled that girl. "
17:29 "You have spoiled that boy. Come on. " You know?
17:31 And it's like they're coming down with some kind
17:34 of a Draconian role.
17:35 "Let me set the record straight from now on. "
17:38 "I'm not your mommy. " "I'm not your daddy. "
17:41 "And If they spoil you, I'm not going to do that. "
17:43 You're in for trouble.
17:45 So you're pushing the child away.
17:46 And the funny thing about it is, if you keep taking that attitude
17:50 your spouse now, they start pulling away from you
17:54 because they don't like what's happening to the child.
17:57 And usually that's where the problem begins
17:59 because the custodial parent becomes real guarded
18:03 about the relationship.
18:04 And in order to protect the child, they push the
18:07 new spouse away.
18:08 And the custodial parent is thinking that the child has lost
18:11 one parent, I can't afford for the child to
18:14 lose the second parent.
18:15 So they take on a double role of trying to be a mommy
18:18 and a daddy at the same time.
18:19 So this new spouse coming into that dynamics,
18:22 this spouse has to be very careful.
18:25 You have to tread softly and work your way into the
18:29 heart of this child or these children.
18:32 You have to know what you're doing.
18:34 You can't go in demanding.
18:36 If not, you're creating trouble and a short marriage.
18:39 So to a large extent, the step parent is going to have to
18:42 accept the frustration of the child and try to
18:47 bond with the child.
18:48 And because the child is also testing the limits of the
18:52 step parent, so they have to be sure that they're not
18:55 being pushed away.
18:56 There's another dynamic that comes to play in this discussion
19:01 and that is now the ex-parent; the ex-father or the ex-mother.
19:05 What should be the attitude of the parent towards
19:10 the ex-parent, especially as it relates to the child?
19:13 It is very important that the two parents,
19:18 the two biological parents, try to be civil.
19:20 If the ex-parent is antagonizing and sabotaging the relationship
19:27 with the new spouse, then we have an internal nightmare.
19:32 So it is real critical that the custodial parent
19:36 try to relate that the ex-parent will try to sabotage,
19:39 they will say bad things to the child about you,
19:42 they will try to, you know, be hurtful and spiteful.
19:45 But you have to understand that they're feeling rejected,
19:48 they're feeling abandoned, and they don't like you.
19:50 So they're going to try to do that.
19:52 So you have to balance this relationship with your child.
19:55 And sometimes you might even interpret for the child
19:57 what the parent is trying to do.
19:59 So I'm hearing you say then that you shouldn't try to spite
20:03 the ex-parent, you shouldn't try to undermine the ex-parent,
20:06 you shouldn't try to say negative things
20:08 about the ex-parent in the presence of the child,
20:11 because it's not helping the situation.
20:13 No matter how you feel about the ex-parent, no matter how
20:16 angry you feel about the ex-parent, the child
20:18 does not feel that way.
20:19 It is still the child's parent and you shouldn't talk
20:22 badly about that parent.
20:23 Neither should you encourage the ex-parent to talk badly
20:27 about your new spouse.
20:29 How about using your child as a pawn
20:32 to get back at your ex-spouse?
20:33 So that, okay if you don't do so and so, you will not
20:37 see the child, or so and so and the child is withheld.
20:40 So the child stands in the middle and we use
20:43 the child as a pawn.
20:45 Under no circumstances should a child be used as a tool.
20:50 The child is not responsible for all the confusion and
20:53 drama that is occurring.
20:54 So the one thing that the parent wants to do
20:57 is keep your child out of it.
20:59 The issues you have are between you and your ex-spouse.
21:02 Your child is not to be used as a pawn.
21:05 You don't use your child to manipulate the dynamic either
21:09 so that you, instead of speaking directly to your ex-spouse,
21:12 you speak through your child; "Tell you father we need... "
21:15 Speak directly, negotiate the terms with the ex-spouse so that
21:21 your child isn't caught up in the adult issues.
21:23 Because the one thing you need to remember is,
21:26 although this person is no longer married to you,
21:28 this person is still the parent of the child you're parenting.
21:34 And you know, June, one of the things we should say to our
21:38 listeners, those that are connecting with this topic,
21:41 is that you should never allow transference to take place.
21:47 There are some breakups that are bitter and hostile.
21:51 It might have been a marriage, it might have been just a
21:54 relationship that results in a child.
21:56 But whatever it is, it's bitter and it's hostile
21:58 and both of you are angry at each other.
22:01 Now, you should never transfer those angry feelings
22:07 and emotions onto your child.
22:10 Because sometimes you may have a son, and the son is
22:13 the exact replica of the father.
22:19 And every time you see this son, you're seeing this man that
22:22 you hate, you can't take, whatever it is,
22:25 repulsion is coming up.
22:27 And in a subconscious way, you scream at the child,
22:31 you bark at the child, you're angry with the child,
22:33 But it's not the child. It's transference.
22:36 Transference is taking place.
22:37 And you have to watch for that and be careful.
22:41 Forcing your child to take sides.
22:43 There is the pressure of divided loyalty.
22:47 And that sometimes becomes a real difficult thing
22:50 for parents to understand.
22:51 In fact, imagine a father who is remarried,
22:54 who is the custodial parent of the child.
22:57 And the father loves his child but also loves his wife.
23:01 But there are issues between the child and the wife
23:04 and they're trying to work it through so that they can
23:06 be a family.
23:07 And if you're going to talk to the child about what's going on,
23:11 if you have an issue with your spouse,
23:13 then you're asking the child to be an ally to you
23:16 and against your spouse.
23:18 And that is just not what you want to do.
23:20 So age appropriate conversations need to be encouraged
23:24 and you shouldn't unburden your issues on your child.
23:28 So now, developing a structure for the child,
23:32 you should try to work out with your ex-spouse
23:36 some kind of an agreement.
23:39 Like you say, regardless of what is happening between both of us,
23:43 let's see if we can be civil for the child or for
23:47 the children's sake.
23:48 So we need to make that adjustment because the child
23:52 is going to be the one that suffers in the long run.
23:55 So somehow you have to be able to put the differences aside
23:59 and work things out so that it can be for the
24:02 betterment of the child.
24:04 Now one of the main problems that blended families face
24:09 is how discipline is administered.
24:11 And in some settings, it is recommended that
24:14 the custodial parent is the only parent that
24:16 should do the discipline.
24:17 Because the step parent sometimes is misunderstood
24:22 in their approach or in their motives even.
24:25 My recommendation is, if you're going to be a parent,
24:28 whether you're the step parent or you are the custodial parent,
24:31 you should have some autonomy in the way you discipline
24:35 because the child is going to be under your
24:37 supervision at times only.
24:39 And you shouldn't have to wait until the other parent comes
24:42 to say to the child, "What you're doing is inappropriate
24:45 and that's not acceptable. "
24:46 So you're going to be reasonable and be very nonthreatening,
24:50 but you should negotiate to have some autonomy
24:53 to discipline the child.
24:55 So I'm hearing you talking now about the role
24:59 of the step parent.
25:00 And what a role you have.
25:02 Because there are a lot of things you have to do.
25:06 The child, or the children, is in your home and you,
25:11 as June rightly says, you have to be proactive
25:15 in the life of the child.
25:17 You have to set clear boundaries.
25:20 The child must understand what these boundaries are.
25:23 But the one thing you must not allow to happen
25:26 is that you have two sets of boundaries;
25:28 one for your biological child or children where they have the
25:32 freedom to this and they have exclusive rights
25:36 for certain things, but those that you are step parent to,
25:40 then you are more firm and rigid and what have you.
25:43 Because children pick up on these things, and that will
25:45 create more problems.
25:46 So you have to be consistent and fair with all the children.
25:51 It is a difficult thing for blended families.
25:53 But many blended families are doing a good job of it.
25:56 The difficulty comes when the step parent perceives their role
26:02 as less than, and not significant
26:05 as the custodial parent.
26:07 And so they relinquish power.
26:08 And that creates more difficulty for the child.
26:14 We're talking about challenges that children face
26:19 in blended families.
26:21 We are cognizant of the fact that there are many, many
26:25 families out there who are in this situation
26:28 or who have gone through this.
26:30 But we would like to spend a little time to talk to
26:33 those of you who are preparing to enter into this situation.
26:39 There are challenges.
26:41 We are encouraging you to do your homework,
26:45 and to do your homework well.
26:47 It's not a bed of roses.
26:49 There are conflicts out there that they need to get through.
26:52 And so what encouragement would you give a couple
26:56 that is moving in this direction of a blended family?
27:00 The first thing I would say is, seek counsel.
27:02 Understand what it is you're going into.
27:04 Don't assume that because you're in love with someone
27:07 who is in a blended family, everything is going to be
27:11 peachy creamy as your dreams are.
27:13 But know that there will be difficulties ahead,
27:16 but that by God's grace and with an open mind
27:19 and with the right attitude, you can be an effective parent.
27:24 We have been talking about challenges facing children
27:28 in blended families.
27:30 And like all families, there are challenges
27:33 are there are problems.
27:34 Bu the one thing we know, and that is if you make Jesus Christ
27:39 the head of your home, the center of your lives,
27:42 you can all work through these challenges.
27:46 We're encouraging parents, as well as children,
27:49 to allow Jesus Christ to be a part of their life.
27:52 And for those of you in blended families,
27:55 make your home a happy home by allowing Christ
27:58 to be your Master.
27:59 Thank you for listening and God bless.