Figuring out the Dynamics of a Step Family

LDo5August 12, 2014

Good day to everyone,
I have been reading through lots of posts for days now. I am trying to figure out a good way to help my wife and my kids bond. I am not asking any of them to assume SM should replace biomom. My kids and biomom have a good relationship. I guess I Should give a little history first...

I have a son (14) and daughter (11) with (now) ex-wife, and she also has a son (18) from her first marriage. We had years of issues that lead us to separation and eventual divorce. Separated/divorced about 7 years ago. Met my wonderful wife shortly after the separation and dated for a couple of years before getting married almost 4 years ago. Since our marriage, we have had a son and daughter. So, it's a packed house! I have custody of my kids (and yes, my step son goes back and forth with the other two... I've been dad for most of his life) about half time.

My wife has had trouble bonding with my kids, which I think has been much more profoundly obvious since having children of her own and seeing how wonderful, loving and affectionate she is with them. They don't fight really, but just don't seem to care whether or not they spend any time together. I don't expect them to be best friends or even for her to share the exact same bond that she does with her own children. But, I would love for them to get along and want to do things together. I have put some of the pressure on my wife to take the first steps in trying to form some kind of bond with them. Is that fair to put on her? I have talked with the kids about her, letting them know she is going to be around forever, and that they should also be making an effort to get along with SM. Their reply is that they just feel like everything is indifferent between them. I don't want to create a problem where there isn't one, but at the same time, I don't want to leave a door open for a problem to grow in the future.

Any one have any experiences or advice that would help?

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"I have put some of the pressure on my wife to take the first steps in trying to form some kind of bond with them. Is that fair to put on her?"

Yes. She knew you and your children were a "package deal" when she married you, so she has an obligation to nurture her relationship with your children. It's perfect that you "have her back" with your kids, now it's time to help your wife figure out how to bond with them better.

Counseling with a licensed marriage and family counselor who specializes in blended families would help give her the tools to forge those bonds. From the opposite side of the equation, counseling would also help your kids figure out how to connect with your wife when they're at your house. If you see any "us vs. them" stuff going on with your two youngest children, they need to be part of the counseling process, too.

Best wishes to you all.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 5:19PM
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Since you've been reading these posts, you are probably as saddened and appalled as I've been with some of them.

Call me Pollyanna, but at least you are starting from a place of "just don't seem to care" and not "they hate each other every moment of the day".

Family counseling sounds like the ticket to me. I think the professionals see this all the time and will be able to help you find your way. It is the rare real life family that comes together and becomes The Brady Bunch. I think that only happens on TV.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 7:58PM
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I agree with Polly. Bonding as a family takes time. Someone once told me that I should expect to spend at least as many years as the age of the step kids to bond as a family. There is a gradual transition from "roommate" to "family". Think of this as an arranged marriage for the kids. The most important thing is mutual respect, and with time, family relationships develop over time. And they don't hate each other's guts, so that's a great start.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 10:25PM
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Thank you all for your advice. I know it has been difficult for all of them to find some common interests. I think you all may be right, I am going to look into a family counselor.

Have a great day!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 8:16AM
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It sounds like there's more of a disconnect than the kids or the wife or OP want to acknowledge.

"They don't actually fight" isn't much of a positive.

Your wife has been in your life since your son was 8 & your daughter was 5, & yet she hasn't become attached to them?

but she is capable of love & attachment, as you can see with her 'own' children.

I wish & hope for the best for all of you.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 11:57AM
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I think it was best said that being a step family is not like the Brady Bunch. First of all, those kids did not go to other parents homes. Another dynamic you have is such a range of age in children. Some advice I would give is that you do not make the older kids babysit the younger ones. Do not refer to the younger ones as the kids to the older ones because they are all the kids. Also work very hard to create family memories. You do not have to spend a lot of money but by creating stories for the dinner table you give them something go talk about.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 4:39AM
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And you create family traditions .

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 6:48PM
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I am going to speak out here on behalf of step moms with his, ours and my kids. Maybe it is ok for there to be different types of relationships with all of these kids. Bonding is not possible or necessary in every situation. For example: 1. Pre-Teenagers are mostly all hard to bond with. 2. A person, adult or not, cannot force bonding with another person. (Takes two to bond) 3. Even in nuclear families, parents tend to bond more strongly with certain kids... Happens all the time, so why do we put pressure on step parents to bond equally with every child in these situations?
In short I don't think it is fair to her to "put pressure on her" to bond with your kids. I don't think the problem is in her power to correct.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 4:26PM
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"pre-teens" are difficult to bond with?

They were 8 & 5 years old.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 5:20PM
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I thought he said 14 and 11

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 7:06PM
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They're 14 & 11 today;
he & his now-wife have been together since the children were 8 & 5.

He said he & current wife dated for about 2 years & have been married for about 4 years, so they've been together about 6 years, since the children were about 8 & 5.

not what I'd call 'pre-teens', & now that I'm thinking about this...
I don't agree that 'mostly all pre-teens are hard to bond with';
I don't even think it's a defensible statement.

Any time a whole group or class of people (pre-teens) are lumped together under a sweeping statement, the statement is questionable, & the bigger the group, the more questionable the statement.

ie: 'oh, women are just like that'.

(not that anyone here has ever heard such a thing.)

Even if you count only from the date of the marriage, which I hope was not the case (I'd hate to think anyone would suddenly spring a new spouse/step-parent on his or her unsuspecting children), the marriage is 4 years old, so the children would have been 10 & 7.

Maybe you could stretch a point to say the son was a pre-teen, but the 7-year-old was a little girl.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 8:12PM
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Regardless of my word choice, and I agree about broad statements about groups of people, there is still a huge hurtle here.
If you look at what can be done today moving forward I say she has a challenge being pressured ( fathers word) to bond with a 11 year old girl and 14 year old boy. Especially if they are not willing. And all my other points still apply- takes two to bond and sometimes people, biologically related or not, do not "click."

Using your point about generalizations- I suggest that because she is a stepmother she Is unfairly categorized by society ... As in " stepmothers have difficulty bonding with stepchildren." Or " evil step mother" This is a century old theme dating back as long as ther have been fairy tales . Even you imply that she should have bonded with them when they were young- some how it is her fault that she did not. She was a childless adult , not everyone is A natural with kids, until they have their own.

If she was the biological mother of both children and clicked more with say the son than the daughter - no one would blame anyone. They would say "oh they don't get along because they are so much alike." Or something like that.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 8:43PM
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As I said earlier, there's more to the story than we've seen.

This isn't a new thing;
it's been going on for a long time, & there's always a reason.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 8:47PM
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Sylvia i agree- I would add that there are probably many reasons.
For LDo5, I applaud you for considering the needs of everyone in your family. I wish only good things and happiness for you all.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 10:02PM
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