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Mother and teenage daughter having an argument

Splits the second time around, Step Families: Making Things Work for the Kids

Mother and daughter sitting at the sofa bed and talking at home

How to divorce with a blended family?

Divorcing, splitting or uncoupling for the second time with children involved creates unique complications. Like the previous divorce, dividing household goods and other assets, figuring out who is paying which debts etc. will need to be arranged. With children and stepchildren recognition and reduction of trauma and stress for the children need to foremost in this challenging situation.  

Don’t give them false hope and make promises you can’t keep. Inform them about the new living conditions and possible changes in daily routine. 

It’s natural for children of all ages to get affected by the shifting dynamics in the family. They often mirror your emotions and are sensitive to the negative energy around the house.  As parents, you must focus on making the new transition easier for them.

Here are a few practical steps for divorcing blended families:

Don’t Put Children in the Middle

Don’t ask children to choose sides during ongoing domestic disputes. You should also avoid passing messages through your kids if your partner refuses to respond. Likewise, do not include them in legal discussions and custodial challenges, regardless of age.

Watching biological parents fight with stepparents can cause trust issues too. Your child may begin to lose faith in relationships when they observe negativity all around them.  Additionally, witnessing daily squabbles and passive aggressive behavior can affect their mental health. They are more likely to develop depression, anxiety, and self-esteem problems.  Some communities have classes to help people with children navigate their divorce to provide positive strategies for each parent and the children.

Learning how to divorce or uncouple a blended family includes managing mixed reactions. 

Have an Open Discussion with the Older Children

Keeping kids out of fights doesn’t mean breaking the news at the eleventh hour. Once you have decided to live apart, arrange a family meeting to inform them about your decision. The older the children are, the more questions they might ask.

Children are quick to blame themselves when parents decide to split. These feelings will resurface and intensify when you consider the unique dynamics of a blended family. Having a family meeting will prevent your house from turning into a battleground of blame-game and conflicts.

Prepare yourself for an interrogative-style meeting beforehand.

Here are a few dos and don’ts for this meeting:

  • Offer Comfort and Support
    Reassure your children that they are not the cause for conflict. Inform them that you are there for them no matter what.
  • Keep Differences Aside
    Don’t blame the other parent or create animosity between stepsiblings.  Maintaining a neutral stance will ensure that your children don’t have to deal with things they are too young to understand.
  • Set Realistic Expectations
    Don’t give them false hope and make promises you can’t keep. Inform them about the new living conditions and possible changes in daily routine.  For instance, suppose a stepparent decided to move out of the city, they should not commit to regular visitations or meetings.

Lastly, what you discuss must align with ages and temperaments. Aim to keep things simple and answer questions truthfully to explain life after divorce. Consider divorce counseling for children if you’re worried about their mental and emotional wellbeing.

Don’t Break Off Friendships & Sibling Relationships 

In the fight over yours, mine, and ours, don’t forget that children consider all the kids in a blended home as siblings. It can be unsettling for them to break off these ties after the split. 

Navigate with these challenges by encouraging friendships instead of isolating stepsiblings and half-siblings.  Permit them to communicate via text and calls. Also, don’t reprimand them for continuing the relationship.  Additionally, you can arrange monthly visits (i.e. hangouts, sleepovers, and play dates) to compensate for the separation. 

There are many different ways to make things work—depending on how cordial you are with your soon-to-be-ex.

The Ex Factor

If your ex is still in the picture, your children are bound to ask questions. They might even share concerns about the expected divorce with them instead of confiding in you.  It’s better to give your ex a heads up before you break the news to the kids.

Make sure that you share your side of the story and reasoning for the split. Also, inform them about how much you plan to discuss with the little ones. These details will ensure that they handle impending questions with more tact.

Father and son having a talk

Handling Mixed Reactions

Learning how to divorce or uncouple a blended family includes managing mixed reactions. As with most situations, each child will respond differently.  Parents must accommodate their unique needs.

Younger ones become prone to tantrums and bad behavior. They might even get clingier. Shower them with love and affection. Assure them that the new living conditions do not mean less love. Older children can become more vocal about the situation or isolate themselves. In both cases, you must understand their perspective and offer support. 

Moreover, divorce counseling for children might resolve mental health challenges and negativity surrounding the separation. Having professional support will allow everyone to deal with divorce-induced stress in a better way. 

Having professional support will allow everyone to deal with divorce-induced stress in a better way. 

Custody Arrangements

Divorcing blended families might include dual or joint custody. It’s especially true in situations where you have conceived a child in this marriage. The other possibility is if stepchildren are emotionally attached to their stepparents.

Co-parenting can become messy if your ex has visitation rights too. Sit down and discuss the logistics of the situation beforehand.  You must schedule weekly (or monthly) visits depending on the feasibility and convenience of your kids. Do your best to ensure that their daily routines and school schedules do not disrupt in the process.

Conclusion

In conclusion, how to divorce a blended family mirrors actions you might have taken during the first separation. Only this time around, you will have to accommodate even more heartbreak and stress for the children involved. Focus on the children’s needs over ongoing domestic disputes. Make sure that they feel safe, secure, and loved. 

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Written by
Robin & Heather
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Written by Robin & Heather

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