Blended families

(20 Posts)
Singledad5871 Sun 28-Jul-13 08:36:15

My girlfriend and I have 2 young children each from our previous relationships - making 2 boys and 2 girls. We want to move forward and all live together but my DP is worried about how all the children act. While I believe I treat all 4 children equally, my DP says I treat my daughter more like an adult and a little bit differently (she's 7 btw) - which seems to cause squabbles when all 4 children play. My DD is quite bossy and can often be a bit pushy with the other children - but she is lovely and sweet. Issue we have is my DP finds all 4 kids together at times stressful and also while I acknowledge that my DD is a handful and high maintenance, I don't think she's always to blame, but she is often the one to react. How can we get all children together under the same rules etc but also stop the squabbling between my DP and I?

deepfriedsage Sun 28-Jul-13 08:42:38

Why do you want to live together? It sounds like the children have had enough of adults happiness coming first.

It sounds like the woman you are dating is not keen, why are you not taking her concerns into consideration? Why are you not considering all childrens happiness?

Have you dealt with the issues that broke up your first family attempt?

riverboat Sun 28-Jul-13 12:42:26

Singledad - can you give any examples of how your DP thinks you treat your DD in a more adult way than the other children?

Unlike deep, I think that blending families CAN work and can be positive for the children and adults involved. But it is certainly not easy, as a quick glance around this board will tell you! It seems way easier to get it wrong than right. You and your DP will have to be really really honest with yourselves and each other about the way you treat all the children. Presenting a completely united front, backing each other up, and having all children abide by the same agreed house rules is essential, with equally applied consequences when they don't.

I am not an expert, being a stepmother but having no children myself, the above is just the basics of what I understand many on this board have been told in counselling sessions when they have sought professional help to deal with these sorts of issues. I hope that someone with a bit more direct experience comes along soon.

NatashaBee Sun 28-Jul-13 12:50:09

I think if you're squabbling now, you have some work to do before you move in together! What kind of things does your DD do that your partner is unhappy with? Do all the kids live with you full time?

ImNotBloody14 Sun 28-Jul-13 13:06:22

Dont even consider moving in together while your girlfriend has this issue with your daughter- she is telling you upfront there is a problem so you would be very selfish to ho ahead and move your dd in with someone who doesnt like her.

Singledad5871 Sun 28-Jul-13 13:29:01

I want to make sure we do get everything right but I think I have overcompensated to my DD when their mum left us and perhaps also been a friend as well as parent to her. Because I've always saw her as oldest I've maybe gave her more choices and responsibility than I have with my DS and so maybe I have. My DP has pointed out that while I consciously treat all the 4 kids the same, I sometimes unconsciously give my DD more leeway. To put it into context my X left and I looked after the kids until she decided that she wanted them back and it's been a battle that she just uses them as pawns.
I just want to give all the kids and my DP and me a happy stable life

Singledad5871 Sun 28-Jul-13 13:35:34

Deep, my XW was a selfish alcoholic who I supported through it all, then she decided that she wanted to be with another ex alcoholic - to the detriment of the kids. She left us, but thought I would just want to become a weekend dad when it suited her to have the kids. The reason I'm asking this is to take everybody's view into consideration and give us all happiness and stability.

RandomMess Sun 28-Jul-13 13:41:03

Sounds like your dd is lovely and sweet to you but controlling with others? It would be best if you can get your relationship with her back to being one of parent and child not equals.

deepfriedsage Sun 28-Jul-13 13:41:40

It is going to be a challenge with two alcololics and your dp rightly not keen to move in. I don't understand why you cant leave things as they are?

Singledad5871 Sun 28-Jul-13 14:57:36

Because we really love each other - we make each other happy and all the kids want us to be together. My DPs kids really respond to me and my kids adore my DP - we want to move forward and get married and all the stuff that everybody wants

ChinaCupsandSaucers Sun 28-Jul-13 15:42:32

singledad Why not sign up for parenting classes together?

That's what my DP and I did - not only did it equip us with additional skills, it gave us the opportunity for dialogue and debate about our values and beliefs.

There's no shame in slowing things down - I refused to move in with my DP until we were clear about our partnership and approach to each others DCs - and it has been essential to have strong foundations as we've been through a lot of unexpected and totally unpredicted experiences as a family.

CountryGal13 Sun 28-Jul-13 20:29:29

Why are people jumping to conclusions about how the children and the partner feel? I for one did not get the impression from the op that the partner doesn't like the child or that the children are tired of the adults happiness coming first!

Some of your comments are just nasty and op was only asking for some advice and support, which is what I thought this forum was for.

Singledad5871 Sun 28-Jul-13 20:52:19

Countrygal - spot on, my DD is really smart and sweet and my DP really loves her - where the concern is in the dynamics with the 4 children - we just want to get it right. We want to make sure we can give the kids the stability and love that we think is what we all deserve. Any advice on getting it right is most welcome

Petal02 Sun 28-Jul-13 22:26:24

Single dad, in an earlier post you mentioned that you've become a friend to your daughter, in addition to being her Dad.

If you google "spousification" or "mini wife" it could throw some light on how your partner is feeling.

Singledad5871 Sun 28-Jul-13 23:04:46

Petal02 - I do see what you mean and although I've never went as far as to turn her into a replacement - I probably have allowed her to step into the void and as a result she sees herself as older and more responsible than the other kids. She often dominates play and is bossy - but she's also kind and generous. I'm trying to break that habit from me - after all she's only 7. An earlier post suggested parenting classes which my DP and I are going to go to. She admits she is very set in her ways and more rigid than me - I tend to offer choices and the house has always been a little bit of a democracy to an extent - we decide things together etc - and that's probably my mistake straight away!

theredhen Mon 29-Jul-13 07:49:16

I think the single most important thing is got the two adults to have a united front.

I also think kids need to know who is in charge and where the boundaries are. It makes them feel safe. Giving children too many choices can confuse them and make them feel that they have too much responsibility.

Kids should have choices in their home and a voice and a right to be heard. However, I think there is a real danger that too much can create a bossy child who believes she has the right to dictate to others.

Anormalfamily Mon 29-Jul-13 08:52:07

Redhen, 100% right!
OP, setting healthy boundaries does work,even if you feel uncomfortable doing so.
It's nice being your dc friend, it means they share responsibility with you and you don't have to play bad cop.
But you're not doing your dc long term favors. Believe me, I've been there. Luckily I always manage to find good supportive friends, books and mn of course.
I saw myself unburdening myself to my ds (as lp) and changed this behaviour (and explained what had happened and apologized to my ds).
Then I encouraged dh to allow his dd the same unburdened childhood. His first tiny steps in that direction worked immediately and her relationships to me and ds changed rapidly and to everyone's benefit.
Unfortunately dh has issues beyond the spousification of his dd. I will have to address the issue of being BFF with his ds now...
All our issues centre on dh being reluctant to see me as his team mate. Please treat your partner as an equal and parent all your dc together.
Good luck!

brdgrl Mon 29-Jul-13 09:27:55

OP, this sounds very, very familiar to me...you sound like my now-DH and his DD, when we met! She was a bit older than your DD, that's all.

I really do encourage you to look for resources and help around the idea of 'spousification' especially. My DH had not exactly 'replaced' his first wife with DD (it is quite common for spousified children to take on adult responsibilities or act more mature than their years - this was not the case with my DSD - it was more than she was given adult privileges and encouraged to see herself as a peer, but without any responsibilities)...but he had very much allowed her to play at being his partner and allowed or even accidentally encouraged her to be quite domineering and pushy with others.

I found (and yes, still find, five years on!) my DH's parenting of DSD to be the biggest single obstacle to our relationship. It's affected the whole family dynamic and the lives of the other children. I should add that she's smart, engaging, creative, generous and I care for her very much.

The thing that my DH eventually realised, with a counselor's help, was that the situation wasn't very healthy for DSD herself. Since he's been working at redrawing boundaries and helping DSD back to a more appropriate role - that of his teenage child - she has become happier, easier to be around, has stronger friendships with others, and is finally catching up to her age-group.

We got some help from Relate. Parenting classes sound like a good idea too, but I think you would get a lot from a counselor who understood/had experience with the problem of spousified children.

I also recommend the book Stepcouplng by Susan Wisdom, it has a lot of good advice for creating a 'unified front' and putting your relationship as the two adults at the heart of a healthy family unit.

purpleroses Mon 29-Jul-13 10:11:22

DP and I seem to be managing quite well at blending our famies. We have 6 kids between us (though not all full time), have been living together a year now, and have just got engaged smile

We did spend quite a while working it all out beforehand though. When you're a single parent you don't really have to formalise the rules of your house as it's just "what mum/dad says goes", but to blend the two families you do need to a lot more. So we wrote down a long list of rules/routines/ways of doing things and then worked out compromises where there were differences. We then started implementing some of the changes in advance of moving in together. We covered the real detail of family life - bedtimes, computer hours, who sits where for dinner, personal space and belongings, what food is allowed when, etc.

When your DP says you favour your DD too much, it's worth getting her to pinpoint the things that give her this impression, and think about how you could do them differently, or without it appearing to favour her, or explain to your DP in more detail why you do do it that way so at least she understands. One of the good things about both being parents is that - even if you don't feel exactly the same way about your DSC as you do your DCs - you can at least understand the way your DP sees their children.

We had quite a few issues between our two youngest when we first got together (they were 7ish at the time) squabbling. One factor for my DD was an acute jealousy of me being at all mum-like to DP's DS. She needed a lot of reassurance that I was her mum first and foremost. DP's DS meanwhile was mainly feeling that his terratory was being encroached - he's actually been much better with DD since we all moved in together and she has her own room. If you're spending quite a bit of time all together before moving in - which is good to do - it's good if you can help whichever children are not in their own home to have somewhere they can retreat to that's "theirs" in a sense and not in someone else's way. DP and I also tried not to leave our squabbling-prone DCs alone too often, to avoid the situations where my DD came running to me telling tales of woe all disputed by DSS. It's very hard not to take your own DC's side in that situation - especaily if they've actulally been hurt, so we tried not to give them the opportunities to take pots at each other. They are SO much better now though. Really seem to enjoy playing together smile

Singledad5871 Mon 29-Jul-13 19:02:48

Purpleroses bdlrgirl etc - thanks - really good advice. We just want to get it right for everybody and ensure we give as stable and secure platform for all the children.

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