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Helping Your Child Cope in a New Family Setting 
 
by Jami Cameron October 03, 2005

Keeping up the family feeling.

Once you’ve merged into a new family setting, don’t throw all your hard work out the window – keep it up. Make sure you incorporate the following suggestions to help maintain a happy family:

The family that plays together stays together.

Once a week (at the least, once a month) set aside a few hours or a day to do some fun family activities. That can mean a camping trip, board game night, movie night, sightseeing – whatever you choose, make the most of it. Laugh, talk, eat good food – do it all – together. This act of family time strengthens the bond and helps family members feel like they belong.

Say I love you.

Whether you say it once a day or a thousand times a day – an “I love you” makes anyone feel special. Children need to grow up knowing you do in fact love them, so make sure they clearly understand how you feel.

Herd the flock regularly.

Just because you had one family meeting doesn’t mean you are out of the water. Pick one day a month for the family to sit down for an hour to discuss what is working, what isn’t and what is coming up. This is a great way for everyone to disclose their monthly activities and any issues they have that need to be resolved. All activities discussed should be recorded on a monthly calendar so everyone is aware of the month’s commitments. It is also a great way for family members to ask for support if it is needed.

Don’t stifle happy times in the past.

If a child brings up a happy memory from the past – maybe from their life in your previous marriage or talking about a parent no longer in the picture – join in the discussion. It is important for their past to be validated – you can’t just wipe the slate clean and start over. This helps the child understand that their happiness is important, and while you may not be in that situation any longer – you respect the positive memories that make up your child’s life.

Do continue to discuss the past, present and future.

Again, while your child is no longer living in the past situation, it is important to validate those feelings that arise from the past. But, don’t forget to talk about the good times happening now and what can come in the future. It is easy for children to get stuck in the past and hold on tightly to the notion that things can change back to the way they were – so it is often necessary to bring up why the situation didn’t work for you and why you are happy now. By no means is this a forum to slam the other parent or living situation, but do explain civilly and in an age appropriate way why things weren’t working, and why they work now. If they have questions about why it didn’t work, answer them truthfully – but be sure to validate the fact that the child’s other parent or guardian does still love the child no matter what – and that their relationship is just as important as yours is.

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