Saturday, November 28, 2009

Difficult Step-Children

My heart really goes out to step-parents and step-children. Rather than being "blended," many step-families, unfortunately, are more often like trying to mix oil and water.

As the child of a divorced home, I can only write from a child's perspective. Yet, what I have to say may help step-parents, and divorced parents as well.

In order to understand where the kids from divorced homes are coming from, I think it's important to keep in mind that most children from divorced homes have a crushing weight of pain on their hearts for most of their growing up years. Some never get over it. Each child deals with it in different ways: perfectionism, trying to please everyone, depression, thoughts of suicide, resentment, hatred, sullenness, acting out, rebellion (either outward or inward), fantasy, day dreaming, turning to drugs or alcohol, sniffing paint and aerosol cans, hanging themselves until they black out, etc., etc., etc.

I once heard it said that divorce is like losing a parent to death only no one says nice things about the missing parent. Just think what a state of emotional limbo that leaves a child in. Grief over the loss of the non-custodial parent is rarely dealt with by the custodial parent who is often having to deal with his or her own grief and bitterness.

Some parents and step-parents make the mistake of trying to please the child who is acting out. Yet, this backfires, because the kid feels like you are trying to buy a relationship instead of really working on building one. Unfortunately, there is such a limited amount of time together with the children that it just doesn't feel like a family at the non-custodial parent's house. In fact, the non-custodial parent may even become a total stranger to his or her own children.

In such a case, it may be wiser for the non-custodial parent to invite the children over instead of forcing them to comply with visitation rights. You might also try to work out visits in their own home or somewhere they are familiar with such as their grandparents' house. This is only a suggestion for parents who are dealing with sullen, depressed kids on their custodial visits.

Give these kids room, love them for real with hugs, a listening ear, and one-on-one time. Plan a project to work on together during your visits rather than spoiling them rotten. Working together often builds relationships.

I hope you blended families out there will consider these things from the perspective of a child from a divorced home.

And, I sincerely hope you parents who are considering splitting will keep it together for the sake of the kids. Even bad homes are better than broken ones any day! Be mature and work it out with the help of Almighty God.