We probably should have expected that our family wouldn't instantly blend the day my husband and I were married. While marriage was a dream come true for us, it was a big change in a long series of changes for our kids.
They felt threatened by the affection that was so natural for us to show one another. We noticed that holding hands caused a seemingly desperate demand for my attention from the 4-year-old. As far as he could remember, he was the only man in my life. Sharing me was hard. On the other hand, the 10-year-old would roll his eyes and groan in disgust when I gave my husband a quick welcome-home kiss or hug.
Children need healthy models of physical affection, especially if they have previously witnessed an unhealthy relationship. While the process is different for each child within a blended family, every child can adjust. With the compassionate guidance of their parents, children can become more comfortable witnessing the natural outpouring of a happy marriage.
Jedd Hafer, who speaks on raising kids in challenging parenting situations, says that adults need to reassure their children that they never intend to make them feel uncomfortable. "Just showing sensitivity will help a lot," Hafer says, "even if it doesn't take you 100 percent of the way." But Hafer reminds us that while the kids' feelings should be considered, it's important to make clear that their comfort level doesn't run the house.
During the early days of our blending, we took special care to show extra affection to our children. If my husband's hug resulted in my young son demanding my affection, I would hug and kiss my son until he dissolved into giggles. Meanwhile, my husband would take care to demonstrate that there is enough love to go around, removing the possibility of my son using affection as a wedge between the adults. I would also make a simple statement to help us remember God is the true leader of our family: "I am so thankful God brought us together."
As the children felt more secure within our new family, they grew more comfortable with our marital affection. They are still children, though, and boys at that. It is not uncommon for the welcome-home kiss to be met with a joking, "Get a room!"
This article appeared in the January/February 2013 issue of Thriving Family magazine. Copyright © 2012 by Karen Klasi. Used by permission. ThrivingFamily.com.
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