by Brette Sember
You’re divorced with kids and are expecting a new baby with your new partner. Maybe he has kids too from a previous marriage. This isn’t the Brady Bunch, but there are definitely ways to blend all your various families together. His, mine, and ours can all function together happily if you follow some important tips.
Talk to the Older Kids When you’re expecting a baby, make sure that your kids and his kids understand that the baby belongs to all of you. Together you are one big family and the baby will be brother or sister to everyone. Avoid using terms like “half-brother” because kids are not concerned with degrees of relatedness. All that matters is that the baby is going to be an important part of their family and will be a sibling.
Be Prepared for Jealousy Jealousy of a new baby is normal in an intact family, so don’t worry that your divorced status has caused your kids to react negatively to the baby. Keep in mind that your older child will recognize that the new baby has two parents under one roof, something he doesn’t have, which can cause disquieting emotions. Don’t give your kids a pass because they are children of divorce. Expect love and respect to be shown to all members of the family no matter what.
Prepare Extended Family If your husband’s family comes over to meet the new baby, make sure they understand that everyonemust be included in good wishes. Your mother-in-law should not fawn over the baby and her bio grandkids and ignore your children. She needs to congratulate everyone on being a new brother/sister. If her grandkids get a “new brother” t-shirt, yours should too. You do need to set general boundaries and expectations for holidays and events (for example, many families create the rule that grandparents will buy holiday or birthday gifts for bio grandkids only, while some grandparents want to embrace all the children as their grandchildren), however when the baby is new it is important that everyone receive equal attention.
Cope with Your Ex Because your child is going to be excited about the new baby, she will probably want to share that excitement with her bio dad. No matter what kind of relationship you and he currently have, there are probably some uncomfortable feelings, particularly surrounding the new baby. If your child wants her dad to meet her new sibling, welcome that and think of it as a way to help her adjust to the new baby. You will want to encourage a friendly relationship between your new child and your older child’s bio parent. Not too far in the future, your baby will be old enough to interact with him and understand who he is. You want them to develop a friendly, fond relationship since they will likely be seeing a lot of each other over the years.
Schedule Family Time If you are dealing with his, mine, and ours when it comes to children, your life is likely in total uproar with the various visitation schedules, not to mention school and activity schedules. Getting everyone together in one room might not be possible very often, but it is important to make the effort to do so. Gathering all the children in your family together on a regular basis will help reinforce that they are one unit and are all important to each other and to you.
Brette McWhorter Sember is a retired family attorney and mediator and nationally known expert about divorce and parenting after divorce. She is the author of The Divorce Organizer & Planner (McGraw-Hill), How to Parent With Your Ex: Working Together for Your Child’s Best Interest (Sourcebooks), The Complete Divorce Handbook (Sterling), and No-Fight Divorce: Spend Less Money, Save Time, and Avoid Conflict Using Mediation (McGraw-Hill). Her web site is www.BretteSember.com.