Marriages fall apart, children stay. And sometimes they give us difficult problems.
Marriages fall apart, children stay. Whether they live with us or leave the house with the former soul mate, whether they come to our house with a new husband or wife, they give us difficult tasks. How to build relationships with your husband's children? What to do if a child flatly refuses to accept a half-brother? Is it possible to punish someone else's child if he is really guilty?
Domashniy Ochag invited our permanent expert, child psychologist Natalya Barlozhetskaya, to analyze some real family situations
Mom is in control
“My husband and I divorced 4 years ago. Children (son, 11 years old, and daughter, 8 years old) were completely on my side during the divorce, they knew that their father had gone to another. But over time, they cooled down and even learned to benefit from the current situation. Dad usually allows them everything, gives them expensive gifts and takes them to have fun, but I'm "too strict". If I punished for bad grades, dad gives consolation gifts, etc. But recently I met a wonderful kind man. We love each other, and my children strongly oppose this relationship. At first they wouldn't let me go on dates, and if I went, they called every 15 minutes. After my return, they pestered me with questions. When he came to our house, they refused to leave the room. I would like to get married, but I am afraid that my second marriage will be a blow to them and will not bring me happiness…”
The situation is quite normal. Children during a divorce (against their will) are often forced to make a choice in favor of one of the parents, which causes them a feeling of hopelessness, loneliness and even bitterness. It seems to them that they have been abandoned and betrayed, so they are drawn to a person who experiences similar feelings, take the side of an offended and abandoned spouse. However, time passes, and the current situation no longer seems so terrible, and the flexible child's psyche finds ways to adapt to new circumstances and uses them to its advantage. Most often, in these conditions, one has to deal with childish manipulation and even blackmail. Let's take a look at the main challenges a divorced mom faces as she seeks to start a new life and start a family again.
• Child compares parents and forces everyone to dance to his tune.Try to wonder how manipulative tendencies came about? Perhaps you or your spouse gave your children an example of this relationship when you used them as a bargaining chip in a divorce situation? Explain to your ex-spouse that inconsistent actions sometimes do more harm to children than excessive strictness or excessive softness. Make it a rule that if children need permission to do something, they need to get permission from each parent. Then, instead of manipulating you, they will look for a way to convince both. Never speak ill of the other parent to your children. Never allow children to gossip and discuss the other parent with you. A child can only share how he feels, but not complain about a “bad mom” or a “cruel dad.”
• Child resists new relationships and controls mom. Tight control by children is most often associated with a selfish desire to completely possess mom (or dad).
Growing up, such children begin to make similar demands on their spouses, forcing them to give up their own careers, interests and friends, which inevitably leads to conflicts and rupture. Talk to your children about your love for them. Try to explain to your children that your relationship with them and your relationship with men are two different things. You have every right to be happy. But never tell children the details of your meetings. By reporting to them, you kind of let them into your relationship with the opposite sex. And for the successful development of children, “the door to the bedroom of adults must be closed.”
If the children start to set conditions, explain to them: you have friends and girlfriends, and this does not prevent you from loving your mother too at the same time.
• Child threatens to leave for another parent. Ask yourself if the child is angry, is he trying to offend you in this way? Or maybe he wants to avoid doing homework? Does he really think that he will be better off in the house of the other parent? Discuss the situation with your child and then say, "Okay, you can leave, but you can always come back." And always answer in this way - thereby you force the child to think about the seriousness of this step. Discuss with your ex-spouse what to do in a similar situation. Let the child have the keys to mom's house and dad's house so that he does not stay on the street.
• Parents are afraid to start a personal relationship with another person for fear that the child will get worse from this. You simply must think about a new family. This will not only not harm the children, but will also make it possible to understand that divorce is not the end of the world. If you feel the need for a new relationship, do not think of the child as a hindrance. On the contrary, your optimism and openness will be a good example of love for children. Having given up something for the sake of their children, many parents then form in them a sense of guilt for an unsettled personal life.
Lack of love
“We live together: me, my child from my first marriage (daughter, 3 years old) and common-law husband. It seems to be good, but he has no love for my child. She can play, but she won’t go for a walk alone when I need to cook dinner, for example. I love my boyfriend, but my daughter still needs a lot of attention.”
“My daughter is 8 years old, I lived with her father for a long time, I divorced only two years ago. A year later, she married her childhood friend. Since he visited our house and knows his daughter, they always had a good relationship. Yes, they are like that now, my daughter is drawn to him, she is interested in him, she would gladly talk to him, but … Having become a stepfather, he ceased to be her friend. He began to educate her, and this, in his understanding, means prohibitions, restrictions, requirements. He constantly yells at her, does not hesitate to call her a fool. I see that he is wrong, that the girl needs praise, encouragement and support. The husband also wants peace, a second child. And how can I imagine what these bans can result in in six years … Well, if it turns into rebellion and rudeness, but if it turns into drug addiction?”
A man marries a woman because he loves HER, and not her child at all, besides, born from another person. Of course, the baby does not seem to be a stranger, he is part of his beloved woman, with whom he wants to tie his fate. But the child takes too much time and attention from his mother, and the second spouse finds himself in a situation of being abandoned. A rare man can accept a child from another person as his own, and this cannot be demanded of him.
As a rule, a woman expects that it is her husband who will establish contact with the child, and if this does not work out, she begins to blame her husband for this. But it is quite natural that the stepfather himself is afraid of relations with his stepson or stepdaughter, and the additional pressure of his wife leads to conflicts. Look for common ground. Intuitively, every woman can find her own, individual approach to both sides. Set aside time that you will spend only with your child and only with your husband. In general, any changes in life should be gradual and timely, only then they will cause a minimum of resistance - this rule also applies to building relationships in a new family.
• Let children express their feelings. Do not criticize or force them to care for new family members. Try to understand the condition of children, instead of saying that they should not experience such emotions.
• Feel free to show warm feelings to each other in the presence of children, let them see how happy their father or mother is with their new spouse. But do not overdo it in this matter - children should not be witnesses to your intimate life.
• Create as many new traditions as possible for the new family: organize joint trips, walks, holidays. Give each child their own space and define a clear circle of responsibilities.
• Expect your kids to try to manipulate you. Let them know they are loved and appreciated, but that they shouldn't turn you against each other. Tell your child, “I know it’s hard for you to welcome a new person into our family. I understand that you feel angry and hurt.”
• One day a child may say in anger to his stepfather (stepmother): “I hate you. You are not my own.” Don't take these words too close to heart. Even own children sometimes say this to their parents.
• Don't force kids to call their new parents mom or dad. But if they do it themselves, please accept the gesture with gratitude.
Brothers and sisters
“Our marriage is almost five years old. My husband has an ex-wife with two children. One "child" is already a student, the second is still at school. Children seem to have enough money and communication with their father. But with the ex-wife, it is somewhat more difficult, since she has conservative views and still believes that "the father of children should live with his family." And now we are expecting a baby. And I thought: is it necessary to put the ex-wife on notice? Should I tell my children that they will soon have a brother or sister?”
It is difficult to imagine a situation in which an ex-wife, who was left alone to raise two children, would have reacted kindly to the appearance of a child by another woman in her ex-husband. If one's own personal life remains unsettled, someone else's happiness hurts especially painfully. In addition, the appearance of a small child means that the ex-husband will spend less money on children from his first wife. The opinion that a father should live with his family and raise his children, from the point of view of a child psychologist, is completely justified. A child needs a father who can be contacted at any time of the day, who lives nearby, loves his mother, helps with the housework and, with his daily actions, sets an example of how to live in this world.
If a man manages to maintain a warm relationship with his children after a divorce, it is he who must inform them and his ex-wife that he is expecting a baby. At the same time, one must understand that this situation is a trauma for the child. Therefore, the father must explain to the child that he will love him no matter how many children he has. And for this you need to convince the child of his uniqueness: “I will have a baby, I also love him with all my heart, but I love you longer. And it will always be so.”
And do not be upset if everything does not work out right away and not as you would like. After all, children's jealousy is a common occurrence in a complete family, between siblings.
"I am a widower. I have two children, a boy and a girl, they are now 7 years old. I recently married a beautiful woman whom I love very much. She has an 8 year old son. Our kids don't get along very well, and my stepson just can't stand me and takes revenge on my kids for that. He offends them, does petty dirty tricks, tries to play tricks with evil jokes, etc. When the children complain to me, and I try to talk to the boy, the wife stands up for him, she has already punished my children several times. All this greatly complicates the relationship between me and my wife. We often fight, and then cry and ask each other for forgiveness, because we understand that children are simply manipulating us, they want us to separate.”
Most often, fights between half-siblings arise on the basis of rivalry for the attention of their own parents. Protecting someone, adults only provoke further fights. Therefore, if a fight or conflict arises, do not take sides. Use the timeout method. In a calm and even voice, say to the children: “You will now go to your rooms and stay there until you calm down and can discuss everything calmly.”
To avoid being manipulated into fights, leave the room, because the kids want to get you into a fight. Never compare children! The phrase: “Look how well your brother did it,” makes the child want to destroy what he did. And start a tradition when you can be alone with each of the children and discuss the most exciting things for them. Separate "dad" and "mom" time separately.