Journal

Halloween with a Blended Family

Written by Trish Eklund

Written by Trish Eklund

Divorce can drastically change the way your family  plans holidays. Even Halloween can be so much more complicated when you insert exes, step-parents, and step-siblings.

The first Halloween during our separation was extremely uncomfortable. My ex-husband went trick-or-treating with us, with two mutual  friends of ours as a couple. The girls ran ahead of us, racing one another to each house, leaving the adults to walk together, in awkward silence. I had to continuously remind myself why we were trick-or-treating together in the first place. We were being grown-ups, putting our differences aside for the kids for an hour and a half. I kept my mouth shut and we made it through that hour and a half. Once we each met someone, holidays became even more complicated.

During mediation, we decided to forgo swapping Halloween every year and to each take the girls for a couple of hours on Halloween. They grow up so fast, and neither of us wanted to miss a single Halloween of trick-or-treating, school parties, and costumes. This year, the girls will begin trick-or-treating with their dad, step-mom, and siblings early in the evening, and will finish the night trick-or treating with us. We take turns assisting in the classroom parties, and this year Molly and I both plan to help during Cami’s class party. Cami does not have to worry that it will be awkward or that we will not get along. The only thing she worries about is how everyone else reacts to our unique situation. People are not usually understanding about our family, and many make comments.

Bob and Trish Halloween 2010

Cami and Ali Halloween 2011 (Zombie cheerleader and a prom queen)

A divorced couple who gets along has become abnormal, while fighting exes are the norm. I feel we need to change that, one family at a time. Isn’t it better that neither of us miss a single Halloween? What were your holidays like with divorced parents? Did they get along? What do you think they could have done differently?

 

Stepfamily info:

Yes, they are more complicated. But they’re also richer. Step-families turn out to be living laboratories for what it takes to create a successful relationships. They have surprising things to tell us all about marriage, gender relations, parenting, and the intricacies of family life.

o Contrary to myth, step-families have a high rate of success in raising healthy children. Eighty percent of the kids come out fine.

o These step-kids are resilient, and a movement to study their resilience–not just their problems–promises to help more kids succeed in any kind of family, traditional or otherwise.

o What trips step-kids up has little to do with step-families per se. The biggest source of problems for kids in step-families is parental conflict leftover from the first marriage.

o A detailed understanding of the specific problems step-families encounter now exists, courtesy of longitudinal research–not studies that tap just the first six months of stepfamily adjustment.

o Step-families turn out to be a gender trap–expectations about women’s roles and responsibilities are at the root of many problems that develop in step-families.

o After five years, step-families are more stable than first-marriage families, because second marriages are happier than first marriages. Step-families experience most of their troubles in the first two years.

o Step-families are not just make-do households limping along after loss. All members experience real gains, notably the opportunity to thrive under a happier relationship.

o The needs of people in step-families are the needs of people in all families–to be accepted, loved, and cared about; to maintain attachments; to belong to a group and not be a stranger; and to feel some control by maintaining order in their lives. It’s just that these needs are made acutely visible–and unavoidable–in step-families.

 

Bob and Girls Halloween 2011

THE CO-PARENTING FACTOR

It turns out that it’s the parents, not the stepfamily, that make the most difference in the success of step-families.

“Remember, divorce isn’t ending the family. It is restructuring it,” explains Carter. “Parents and children don’t get divorced. Parents and children aren’t an optional relationship. One of the biggest issues for step-families is: How can we stay in touch?”

Today’s most familiar stepfamily setup is a mother and her biological children living with a man who is not their birth father, and a noncustodial father in another residence–although the dilemmas of maintaining parenting responsibilities are much more complicated than who lives with whom. The U.S. Bureau of the Census reports that 14 percent of children in step-families live with their biological father, 86 percent live with their biological mother and their stepfather. Whatever the situation, the parents’ job is to find a way to stay in touch with each other so that both can remain completely in touch with their children.

The above information is from:

    Stepfamily information above from:  Lessons from Stepfamilies, By Virginia Rutter, published on May 01, 1994 – last reviewed on June 19, 2012 – Link below

 

Ali, Ayden, Molly, Jeff, and Ali – Halloween 2011

About the author

Trish Eklund

Trish Eklund is a 40-something mom of two, a lover of words, a photographer of the abandoned, and a co-parent with her blended family. She has been a Nebraska transplant for the last 17 years. Learn more about Trish at her blended family website, http://familyfusioncommunity.com/ and her photography website, http://abandonedforgottendecayed.com/, and the Huffington Post Divorce Page. Her abandoned photography has been featured on Only in Your State-Nebraska. Trish Eklund has an essay, Happy Endings, in the anthology, Hey, Who’s In My House? Stepkids Speak Out by Erin Mantz.