August 31, 2004
Bringing two families together can be an adjustment. If you have a new spouse, and you have children from a previous relationship, Dr. Phil has advice.
For the Parent:
“Kids join our lives, we don’t join theirs,” says Dr. Phil.
It’s important to understand that kids eventually move on with their lives, and you have to make decisions that are right for you.
Kids may think it’s all about them, but that’s not the case.
“I think we’ve raised kids in this generation to have the idea that everything is all about them,” says Dr. Phil. “It’s like, ‘He’s my dad, he is supposed to take care of me. He’s not supposed to be going out doing something I don’t want him to do, particularly when it’s not with my mother.'”
Take on new roles.
Are you often the family’s peacekeeper? The problem with that is you can’t choose how others feel. Stop trying to make everybody happy. Adjust your role.
The only person you can control is you.
“The greatest stress we can ever face in our life is when we’re being held responsible for things we don’t control,” says Dr. Phil. If your new spouse and your child don’t get along, let them work it out. “You’ve got to let people own their own feelings and emotions instead of you holding yourself responsible for them.”
Give yourself permission to pursue your happiness, your own life and your own choices.
You have to decide, “I have the right to love this person. I have the right to pursue my life and, in fact, I have a responsibility to do it.” You have the right to move on without guilt. You haven’t betrayed anyone because you fell in love and got married.
Stay plugged in.
Of course you want to create harmony in your child’s world. You’re very important in their life right now. And they need the security of knowing that you are committed, that you are focused, that they are safe in their relationship with you, that you’re not so distracted that you’ll forget about them and the challenges that they may face in life. Talk to your child about what’s important to them. Let them know, “My dad’s still here. He’s still plugged in to my life.”
For the Child:
Respect your parent.
You don’t have the right to tell your parent what to do or not do. They are an adult and don’t need their child’s permission to go on with their life.
Recognize the part you play in creating a relationship.
What can you do that would contribute to a solution? Maybe talking to your new stepparent and acknowledging his or her existence would break the ice a little bit.
Having a relationship with your stepmother is not a betrayal of your mother.
“Don’t think that if you have a cohesive, harmonious relationship with your stepmother that it’s a betrayal of your mom. Those are two very different things,” Dr. Phil says. “Recognize that being civil, laughing with, or playing a game with your stepmother is not at the expense of your relationship with your mother.”
Understand that people draw their love from different accounts, and one doesn’t affect the other.
There are separate accounts that you draw from in terms of love, commitment, loyalty and caring. The fact that your parent has a spouse account, and it’s a full account, doesn’t affect his or her love for you.
Support your parent in what’s important to them.
“If you support your parent, you will support their relationship with that which they love and are invested in, and you will seek to create harmony in their world,” says Dr. Phil.
Contribute to a solution.
Ask yourself, “What can I do that would contribute to the solution of this problem?” Being warm and open can help break the ice and help smooth the transition into a blended family.
For the New Spouse:
Adjust your role.
You may have been staying back and letting your spouse and their child work it out. Good for you, because you can’t fix them, but it may be time to adjust your role in the family.
Make the effort to get involved as a family. Ask yourself, “What can I do to close the gap and heal this? Can I help here in some way? Can I be warm? Can I be more involved? Can I be more caring?”