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Tips for a Successful "Second" Family

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 8 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Second Families Step-parenting Blended

Modern families come in a wide variety of styles. Gone are the days when a family unit consisted only of a couple and their own children; today's households are often made up of "yours, mine, and ours."

Sometimes, there is a considerable age gap between the oldest and the youngest children in such families, as many people begin "second" families years after they had their first children. Such families may be fast becoming the norm, but they still encounter their share of difficulties.

Avoiding Competition

One of the most common hurdles that parents encounter when starting a second family is achieving a sense of balance and fairness for all members. Older kids may feel some resentment towards their parent's new spouse, as well as toward younger siblings. It is not unlikely that they had a number of years being the centre of their parent's attention, only to suddenly have to share time, attention, and even funds with new family members.

While it may be easy to expect older kids to automatically adjust and be mature about the changes in their lives, they are, after all, still kids and may not be able to fully understand that the addition of children in a family in no ways diminishes the love that their parent holds for them.

Parents and step-parents need to do all that they can to assure older kids that they are loved and valued, making time to spend with each older child in the family one-on-one. It's also good for parents to encourage their older kids to develop loving relationships with their young siblings by spending time as a family, playing and going on fun outings.

While it's not unreasonable to ask older kids for occasional help in caring for little ones, parents should be careful not to treat their first children as built-in babysitters for their small siblings - such behaviour is sure to cause an increased sense of resentment!

Dealing With the Ex

In some families, it's not the kids, but the adults who make life more difficult and complicated than it needs to be. Ex-spouses can be sources of great assistance in helping their kids adjust well to their other parent's new family, but personal feelings of resentment and bitterness can sometimes prohibit the adults from being amicable. Especially when they feel that their ex's new spouse contributed to the end of their marriage, even otherwise level-headed adults can sometimes lose sight of the need to make their children's lives as easy as possible.

While it can be tempting to voice negative thoughts about one's ex to their children, it's never a good idea. Instead, parents would be wise to do what they can to mend hurt feelings and put the past behind them, even if that means swallowing their pride for the sake of their children. Parents who have begun second families have a much better chance of gaining the acceptance of their older children if they are first able to win the acceptance of their ex-spouse. If necessary, families may wish to participate in family counselling to help them work out their differences.

Extended Family

Ideally, members of the extended family are eager to welcome new members and readily accept that people may remarry and begin second families in midlife. Grandparents who welcome their new son or daughter-in-law with open arms and extend their warmth to include that person's children set a great example for the remainder of the family to follow. It can be difficult, especially if grandparents or other family members still feel strong connections to the ex-spouse, but if they fail to accept these new people into their families, they risk alienating their grown children and any future grandkids that the couple may have.

One Big, Happy Family

Only in the movies do people meet, fall in love, and instantly find themselves living lives filled with nothing but joy. Real families are complex, and harmony can take a bit of effort by all involved. Adult members need to behave in ways that encourage peaceful interaction, and coming to terms with their past is an important first step. When all parties try to act in the best interests of the family as a whole, they stand a much better chance of making the big screen dream into a reality.

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