The TRUTH about blended families
by Linda Kazares, of Divorcettes.com
Welcome back to part 2 in this series. Divorcette Broadsheet spoke about blended families with Dr. Kevin Leman, an expert in this field and author of Have a New Kid by Friday and The Birth Order Book.
Editor’s note: If you missed part one of this interview, click here
LK: When two people remarry, what do you think their biggest misconception is with respect to the children?
Dr. Levin Leman: The biggest misconception is, without a doubt, “We’ll make it in this marriage.” The research says you won’t make it in this new marriage. Your chances are lower in your second marriage then in your first.
The assumption about the kids is that they will grow up to love everybody. Just because you love this man or you love this woman, it does not mean that your son or daughter will love this other person. Nor should you require or expect this. But what you can expect is that this man or woman will be respected. Why? Expect respect because this woman or man is your wife or husband. Respect is the path you want to walk down.
LK: How can the new couple provide a stable environment for the children?
Leman: Only with great difficulty and plenty of hard work can they provide a stable environment. I’m not painting an easy picture because it’s not easy. The dinner table discussion is key and should be required.
Don’t be held hostage by the children’s activities. I’ve written books on the topic, and activities are not good for kids. Activities are not good for families or for a couple’s sex life. Talk about an un-American statement — you just read one. You may think activities are good for kids. Let me repeat: Activities are not good for kids.
Please listen to what I’m saying … that dinner table discussion must be a requirement for blended families. That’s the one time we can all sit around to talk with one another. I don’t care if you call them anger meetings; you better address the little rubs, the little digs and the little innuendos before they mushroom into World War III. That’s how you do it around the dinner table. Ask the kids, with the parents as leaders, “What do you think about this or that?” And, without being critical or being judgmental, hear it all out. And then put the judge’s robe on, Mom or Dad, and make the decisions you must make.
Will the kids always like the decision? No. But here’s what the kids have to see — that Mom and Dad are on the same team. If there’s any room between your shoulder and your mate’s, you lose and so do your kids.
LK: Do kids team up to work one parent against the other?
Leman: They do the daily. That’s their game plan. They have been hurt already by life, so when you say, “Here’s this wonderful marriage, or wonderful woman or wonderful man,” the kids will try to sabotage this. Why? Because they have already been hurt by life, so why should they trust you to stay together with the woman or man? That’s the problem that new couples face. These kids are not on your team.
LK: You said that activities are not good for kids. On what do you base that opinion?
Leman: Time. Let’s say you each bring a typical family of 2.3 kids. Put each family together, and you now have 4.6 kids. If each of these kids has just two activities, you do the math, that’s over eight different runs to softball, soccer, cheerleading practice, piano lessons — you name it. I have a chapter in one of my books entitled, “Help, I’m a cabbie and my minivan isn’t even yellow.”
We run kids from pillar to post thinking it’s good for families. Well it’s not; kids dominate families today. In my book, Have a New Kid by Friday, I challenge parents to step up to the plate and be the parent. You can’t let a three-foot-tall kid be in charge of you, an adult. This happens in almost everyplace in America. Just go to a typical mall, sit down and watch the behavior, and you’ll know why some mothers eat their young within 15 minutes.
LK: If having a dinner-table discussion is your first-order advice to parents of blended families, what is your second?
Leman: Stay married despite them. You must stay married; divorce cannot be an option. You’ve already gone down that hill once. Every expert on the topic agrees that it takes three to seven years for a blended family to blend. So there will be some nights when you look at the ceiling thinking: What have I done? What have I done to my kids? What have I done to myself? This isn’t working. But you can’t waver. You have to have a port of call. And that port of call is the finish line. Make it to the casket no matter what.