2 weeks ago
Ask A Child And Family Professional
Blended family: My two kids and my partner's kids live with us. My partner treats my kids with completely different standards to his. I'm not sure how I approach this with him. Help?
Finding a way for things to work smoothly in a blended family can be a challenge.
I’m wondering, when you all began living together if you had a discussion with your partner about what your expectations were for the kids in terms of rules and their behaviour? It is understandable if this hasn’t happened, or didn’t cover the types of things you are noticing now - people often don’t realise they have different assumptions and standards to each other until something isn’t working well.
Having spoken about and agreed upon what standards are expected can make sure that you and your partner are on the same page, and also provides an opportunity to discuss when different children aren’t actually being held to the same standards, and why this might be the case.
It can be particularly important to have a discussion if any of the kids also spend time in another household (which may have different rules).
If you didn’t have this conversation initially, it’s definitely not too late to have it now - it’s really reasonable to sometimes have to revisit this type of conversation regularly, to make sure that you have a shared understanding of each other’s parenting approaches, and of the role each of you will play when it comes to each other’s children.
This type of conversation works best when people are feeling calm and have time to sit down and talk, so it can be useful to let your partner know that you were hoping to have a discussion about rules and expectations for the kids to make sure you are on the same page, and agree upon a time to talk this through.
During this conversation, you can share your thoughts on what is reasonable to expect of the children, and ask your partner to share his. The aim is for the two of you to come to a shared set of expectations that you can agree upon.
This discussion can lead into an exploration of what’s currently expected of each child, and whether this is consistent.
Approaching this discussion with a sense of wanting to understand his perspective and the reasons for the difference in how the children are treated, rather than assign blame, can reduce the chance he will react with defensiveness.
You might be feeling frustrated, irritated or concerned that your children are being treated unfairly. It sounds like it is a pattern of behaviour not a once off occurrence, so it has probably been on your mind for a while. If this is the first time you are raising it with your partner, he may or may not be aware of the discrepancy. Sometimes, all that may be needed is for him to realise that there is a difference.
In other cases, it may take some time and require changing some habits. But, by having an open and clear discussion, it ensures that your partner is aware of the issue, and enables the two of you to begin to address it.
Linda is a psychologist experienced in working with people across the lifespan, including teenagers and their families, in a variety of settings, and is ReachOut's Clinical Lead.
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