As we celebrate Labor Day and the end to summer, your family may be experiencing a new beginning – a new baby or what’s been called an “ours” baby. Having a new baby is generally a time of joy and celebration, but for blended families it can also bring new challenges.
Experts say that it generally takes between two and five years for a stepfamily to settle into their own unique routine and become a “blended” unit. During those years, everyone – including your children and your ex-spouses – are learning to navigate a whole new world. You and your new spouse are learning new routines and how to live with and love each other. If you and/or your new spouse have minor children, they are dealing with the same things, but through the eyes of a child and with a child’s limited emotional and psychological development. So, if you think it’s difficult to blend your families, imagine what your children may be experiencing. Now add an “ours” baby, and you could have not only a new baby, but a whole new set of challenges.
Here are some things to consider to make the transition a positive one!
- How’s the relationship between the stepchildren and the stepparent?If the children already have a good relationship with both biological parents and their stepparent, they may be more open and ready for the new addition. If that’s not the case, your children may feel threatened and insecure about sharing your time with a new brother or sister. To help reduce their fears, make special efforts to include them in the preparation for the new arrival. They can help pick out colors for the nursery or suggest names for their new brother or sister. Setting aside individual time for your children and stepchildren can go a long way to assure them that just because you’re having a baby, that doesn’t mean they won’t always be your babies.
- What is your custodial schedule?If the stepchildren live full time with you (or primarily with you and your new spouse), it may be an easier transition. Living with the new baby a majority of the time, can build a deeper bond between all the children. Try your best, to keep the children’s schedule as unchanged as possible after the new baby arrives. If you share custody, those additional transitions can make your children feel like they are missing out on milestones or celebrations. Sometimes that can’t be avoided – so video or FaceTime so they can see the first step or hear the first words of their new sibling. You may have to make new traditions around holidays or birthdays. Just because you have to celebrate a holiday the day after or the next weekend, doesn’t make it any less special – in fact it could bring a greater sense of “family” because it’s unique to your home and children.
- What are the ages of the children?Generally, the younger the children or stepchildren, the more easily they adjust to a new sibling and all the change a new addition brings. Older children and adolescents may be more prone to stepping back or acting out to get attention. It can help to make sure you are consistent with all the children, raising them with similar value, affection, and attention. This can help reduce any anxiety or jealousy.
- What is your relationship with your ex-spouse?No matter how hard you and your spouse work to bring harmony and routine in your home, working to resolve issues with your ex-spouse may bring its own set of challenges. It’s clear that a primary source of children’s problems after a divorce is the inability of their parents to keep their negative feelings about their ex (or their ex’s new partner) to themselves. This can be challenging in itself, but it is even more challenging when you add the extra layer of a new baby. You can’t control how your ex-spouse will respond to the news that you and your new spouse are expecting a new baby, but you can control how you react. Children learn and take cues from their parents. Responding to an ex-spouse in a negative way, just makes it tougher on your children.
The old saying “baby makes three”, in a step-family may mean baby makes 4, 5, 6…. Well, you get the idea. Making the children part of the excitement and allowing them to help care for their new sibling is a great way to create and maintain a happy step-family. Step-families (and ex-spouses) are often caught up in biological differences, jealousies, resentments, and overall difficulty when “blending.”
Remember, an “our” baby can bring your blended family over the moon happiness and an open heart for all.
New Direction Family Law