Doing Life Together

FamilyQuestion: My ten-old-daughter refuses to talk to her new stepdad at meals and will not listen to him when he gives her directions. This is causing tension in our house. I have been divorced for three years and my daughter sees her father every weekend. She has made it clear that she doesn’t want my new husband around.

 Answer: From her point of view, her family has been torn apart and replaced with another. This loss and new arrangement were not by choice. Feelings of anger linger long after your divorce was final. If she hasn’t openly worked through anger and unforgiveness towards you and your ex, these feelings carry over to the blended family.

In the best of situations, children struggle to find ways to honor stepparents without dishonoring biological parents. They experience a constant division of loyalties that evidences in even the smallest of issues. It is this division of loyalties that resurfaces throughout the new marriage and serves as an unpleasant reminder of the price children pay for divorce.

Blended families should not pretend to be a replacement family for children. The reality is that children lose a parent and parents gain a new partner. You must continually talk about this fact. Encourage emotional expression. Reassure her that no matter what she feels, you can handle it and will deal with it. Be patient and don’t force closeness. It takes time for a child to get to know a new adult and feel comfortable having him in the house. It is normal for a child to want the original family back so she doesn’t have to divide loyalties, visitation, and important dates.

Above all, keep God the center of family life. He is your constant source of strength and healing. Be a family who prays and commits to working through even the toughest emotions and disappointments. Over time, things will improve. If not, family therapy is an option.

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