Sharing milestone moments with multifamily relationships
Kailey Foster: Parenting can be difficult when your kids are in a multi-family situation, and you want to be there for big events in their lives. Alyssa Johnson with healthy relationship Utah joins me today to talk about how to share these milestones
how can we share big milestones that our kids’ lives with a multifamily dynamic?
Alyssa Johnson: Yeah, so first is going to be to encourage the child to have a relationship with the other adults in their life. This can be other biological parents, other stepparents, extended family, etcetera. Ask the kids who they'd like to invite to their big events. And then try to use your good communication skills, such as putting things into writing, maybe sharing a Google Calendar event, let the people know so that they can show up.
The most important factor is going to be avoiding conflict conflicts can cause a lot of stress for kids, we don't want to put the kids under any kind of distress. So, focusing on the children's view and their needs is always going to be the best guide for how parents and stepparents should go about these situations. And think of a multi-parent model for your children rather than people replacing anybody.
KF: And what kind of risks do we face when letting personal grudges come into play during big moments for children?
AJ: We never want the children to feel like they are in the middle, or like they have to choose one parent or if that parent or the other. Children may struggle with loyalty binds; they might wonder who they need to be the most loyal to. And we never want to put them in a situation where they feel like they have to make that choice.
Just as parents can love more than one child. Children can love more than two parents. And we want to allow children to care for the other people in their life. This is good for them. And we don't want to cause children distress or cause negative feelings.
KF: Does age or even gender play a role in this?
AJ: Absolutely! The older the children, the longer that process that this can take for them to recognize and accept you as a parent.
Older children have a long history with their biological parents. And so, accepting somebody new into their life might be kind of hard. Accepting someone who has different ways of doing things may be pretty difficult and younger children think more simply, they're more inclusive, and they can easily love everyone.
And so, a rule of thumb that we use is that the age of the child when the stepparent comes into their life, that might be the number of years that it takes for them to fully accept that parent in a parental role. So, if the child is seven, it might take them seven years now, this is not every situation or case this is kind of a rule of thumb. Sometimes that might feel different, but they're just learning, and it takes a little bit of time.