I recently worked with a couple that is a good example of the challenges faced in blended families. This couple, married about 2 years now, each brought two children into the marriage. His two children (ages 8 and 10) were only there every other weekend and one evening during the week. Her children of about the same age were always with them as their father was “out of the picture.” The wife in this marriage accuses her husband of lacking commitment to her and her kids, explaining that every time his children were there “he virtually ignores me and my kids.” She explains that when his children aren’t there he returns to being attentive and loving to her kids. The husband initially denied this change in his behavior, but eventually he tearfully stated “I just don’t know what to do. I only see my kids 67 days out of the year, and your kids are always here. I’m trying to make sure they know I love them and that I’m their dad.” Continue
Transitions / Change
Each stage of life brings changes to relationships, routines, roles, and reflections on Self and the World. Transitions are events or changes that significantly impact a person’s life. Some changes are planned, such as marriage, having a child, or moving. Some changes are not planned, such as losing a job, divorce, severe injuries or illness. Some are “non-events,” or planned changes that do not come about, such as infertility, getting passed over for promotions, etc. Your ability to cope with your transition determines its overall impact on your life. In therapy, the overall impact of a life change is assessed, and resources are created and gathered to aid in adjustment.
A reader has asked me to write an article about “blending families.” In all the years that I’ve written this column I was surprised that I haven’t covered this topic before. This is an important topic, because currently the U.S. Census indicates that approximately one third of children today are living in blended families. Studies of family structures children in the U.S. are currently living in suggests that a little less than half of all children are growing up in nuclear families. About 30% of children are living in blended families, and that leaves about 20% of children living in single-parent households. This is just a snap-shot in time, because children will often experience more than one type of household in their lifetime. Continue
Imagine this scenario: A 9 year old boy we’ll call “David” is brought in for counseling. His parents are concerned about his angry outbursts. They describe him as usually a mild-mannered and well-behaved child until this last year. The parents have been getting reports from his 3rd grade teacher that David often fidgets, blurts out answers impulsively, “seems to be in his own world” too much and such things. They became alarmed when the teacher suggested they have David tested for ADHD. Continue
I’ve worked with several families that bring in their child because he or she is not adjusting well to the parents’ divorce. Most often, the child is doing fine in reality and the parents are the ones who aren’t adjusting well! Just because the parents have divorced doesn’t mean they don’t have to get along. They actually have to get along better now than they ever have before – for the sake of the children! Here is a simple guideline for parents who are having a difficult time talking to each other about their co-parenting relationship. This is a practical alternative to talking and should be used when talking face to face or on the phone is impossible due to hostility and ongoing unresolved issues from the failed marriage. Continue
Teens have a developmental stage all their own. Its called “Identity vs. Role Confusion.” The main challenge at this stage of life is developing their sense of self, and therefore they are asking the question “who am I?” At the same time, the parents will find themselves asking “who is this kid?” As a teen, or the parent of a teen, if you find yourself asking these questions – its NORMAL. In this normal stage, teens will try on behaviors and attitudes like they try on pants and shirts. Some of the behaviors and attitudes can be quite alarming, and even risky. Continue