Many people wonder about the kind of relationship, if any, they should have with step-children, “half-siblings, and other extended young family members. Is it really necessary to have a relationship with your ex’s step-child.
In any kind of relationship there is the opportunity to build up or to tear down. So when the question arises about relationships between adults and children often more than 40 years of age apart, the issue is: If you do want to have a relationship with this child, are you capable of taking a positive stand on the child’s behalf? Are you able to relate with kindness and compassion?
A positive stand means to come from a position that allows you to believe in the best possible outcome for you both. Of course that’s not easy to do — because there are so many other more negative or primitive feelings that can come up in the adult. A threat to survival or a change in everyday routines will bring up intensely strong feelings in both adults and children. This child may have disrupted where and how you live. Whether this disruption is by accident or design doesn’t matter. That’s a very strong effect upon you.
So in order to have a full relationship with the Steps and the Halves — by marriage or by genetics — you have to be able to take a positive stand that allows for you to be kind and thoughtful to the child. Of course, sometimes the biological parent will discourage contact, but if they maintain some kind of neutrality, then the choice is yours.
I’ve heard adults talk about what it was like to be told during photos at a family holiday or other celebration that this photo was for “family only” and being left on the side. Or how sad it was to not be given a gift from the grandparents just because they were told they weren’t “really” a part of that family. Children don’t care about those things. They want to feel loved, wanted, and accepted. If they are at any kind of family event, they should be included and not pushed off to the side when it’s time for photos to be taken of the “real” or “biological” family members.
It is hard enough in this world to fee safe and secure and bonded to a family. The disruption of a divorce tears down so much. The more sensitive adults are to the unasked for changes that children of divorce have to endure, the better off everyone will be. There are no special formulas of when it is correct to reach out or pull back from a relationship with extended members of a family. If there is some affinity, or simply proximity, I think the adult has the obligation to do whatever he or she can to at least make the child feel welcomed.
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