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Posts Tagged ‘Stepsiblings’

Dear Taube:

 

I am a recently divorced mother of two children, and I just remarried a man who has never been married before.  My new husband is just wonderful with my kids.  Both children were fully part of our marriage ceremony, and they even came along with us on our honeymoon.  It was just like I always imagined: one big happy family!

No sooner do we start settling back down to earth a little than we receive news that my former husband, my kid’s biological father, is more than willing to relinquish all rights to his children—so my new husband can adopt them.  Sure, I wanted my new husband to be my kid’s “real dad,” but this?  I never believed my former husband would stoop this low.  How can he give up all rights to his kids?

Sure, there’s a piece of me that is really happy that a path has opened up for my children to be adopted by my new husband.  And sure, adding children to our new family will be easier in the future because everyone will have the same last name, but I’m concerned about how my children are going to feel about their dad’s willingness to give them up for adoption.

If I’m still reeling from all the changes that have been taking place in my life, what must my children be feeling?  Can you help me help them?

Signed, Dazed

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Dazed:

 

The tide of events in your family has certainly been swift enough to throw even the most solidly grounded of families off balance, let alone one that has just come together.  Little wonder you’re still reeling!

Would that it were possible for me to provide the support you require, I’d be happy to provide it in a heartbeat.  But, as the canvas upon which your question is framed is so broad, and the limitations a column affords so obvious, I’m hoping you’ll take into account both the column’s limitations, as well as its intention to address some of the very important issues you have raised.

What your children’s father seems to have done is “to throw down the gauntlet.”  He did this by offering your new family the challenge of replacing him. To put words to this challenge, it might read: “Yeah, go ahead and replace me—and I’ll even make it easy for you.  I’ll get out of the picture entirely.”

Actually what your former husband is doing is not much different than what a great many other deadbeat parents do in abandoning their children, physically, emotionally, and financially.  The difference is that most deadbeat parents don’t bother with any of the legal implications such abandonment implies.

Deadbeat parents leave no room for adoptive parents to occupy those roles they once held in their original families.  Their failures to either vacate or fulfill their roles and responsibilities leave their children in limbo.  Children of deadbeat parents can spend a lifetime trying to figure out whether their deadbeat moms or dads care about them—or ever cared about them—or not!

At the very least, your former husband has taken the final step necessary to vacate the role he once held in his children’s lives.  His taking this step should save your children from limbo, but where and how they land, on their feet—or otherwise, may very well be dependent on how well or poorly you and your new spouse handle the challenge implicit in your former husband’s actions.

When all that they have known before seems to have gone down the drain with the bathwater, children are likely to take their cues from the parent who has remained constant in their lives.  Thus, if you, their mother, look upon your former husband’s decision to relinquish all rights to his children with horror, the likelihood is that your children will do so as well.

Framing your former husband’s decision as a problem will doubtless make that decision a problem for you and your new family—far into the future, perhaps.

Failure to see the positive side of a problem often leads us to miss the opportunity “the problem” affords you.  For example, if you see your problem as: ”My kids will never be able to understand their dad’s abandoning the role, as well as the responsibilities of ‘Daddy,’” it’s likely you’ll miss the opportunity your being confronted with this problem has opened up to you and your new family, i.e., in vacating of the role of “father/Daddy” to your children, your former husband has left open and available to your current husband the role of becoming an adoptive parent to your children.

Concerning the “problem” your children may have in feeling that it must have been something they said or did that caused their father to want to relinquish his parental rights and responsibilities toward them, the “opportunity” you get in dealing with this problem may well lie in simply being able to open up this subject for discussion.

Once your children’s feelings are out in the open, you should be able to clear up any misconceptions they might be harboring regarding any role they might have played in their father’s decision.  Children need to know that adults make choices based on their own decisions—not on the basis of something their children may have said or done.

After the subject of adult decisions has been introduced and discussed, to the point where the children no longer feel that they are to blame for any decision their father made in relinquishing his parental rights, that is the point at which you are afforded the opportunity of introducing your new husband’s, i.e., your children’s current stepfather’s decision: “to adopt” your children, as a matter of “his choice.”  Such a decision will doubtless lead to much discussion.

Please bear in mind that if at any time your children’s minds seem overly burdened by either their father’s decision to terminate his parental rights, or their stepfather’s decision to assume the role of “father” to them, you retain the option of seeking professional help for your children in particular, or for your family as a whole.

Whether you seek professional help or you determine that your children are handling their new life situation as well as one could expect, it might comfort you to know that it is entirely possible to build families on the bonds of love, where no blood-ties exist.  You and your new husband have chosen to do precisely that.

The main thing to keep in mind here is that it will take time for loving relationships to be built between your children and their new stepfather/father.  Time is a crucial element in family-building.

Don’t expect new family members to adapt to each other easily, and don’t expect your new family to come together soon.  There are a number of crucial stages combined families must go through in the process of “becoming a family,” and while “fast” families may make it in four years, slower families may prolong the process seven to nine years, or longer.  Of course, we all know that some families don’t make it at all.

Hopefully, with your sensitivity, and your husband’s caring, the tasks you now see as obstacles will appear as but stepping stones to your family’s bright future as you look back on them in years to come.  Good Luck!

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