EX-ETI­QUETTE

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NOTHWEST/TELEVISION - JANN BLACK­STONE Jann Black­stone is the au­thor of Ex-Eti­quette for Par­ents: Good Be­hav­ior Af­ter Di­vorce or Sep­a­ra­tion, and the founder of Bonus Fam­i­lies — bonus­fam­i­lies.com. Con­tact her at dr­jannblack­stone@gmail.com

This is an up­dated ver­sion of a col­umn that ran in 2004.

QI have re­cently re­mar­ried and now have four chil­dren — two from my wife’s first mar­riage and two from my first mar­riage. The prob­lem is my mother. She loves my chil­dren very much but doesn’t re­ally feel my wife’s kids are part of her fam­ily. She will bring presents for my kids and for­get hers. It’s very hurt­ful, and I don’t know what to do about it. I’ve spo­ken to her about it, but she doesn’t seem to take me se­ri­ously.

AIt’s peo­ple not of un­com­mo­nan older gen­er­a­tionfor to not take step­fam­i­lies se­ri­ously. I have faced it in my life. When I re­mar­ried, I also had my two kids and two bonus kids, so I, too, had four kids around most of the time. Although my mom acted like she ac­cepted all the kids, when no one was look­ing she would sneak an ex­tra $50 to my daugh­ter around Christ­mas time. Of course, be­ing a typ­i­cal kid, my daugh­ter let the other chil­dren know about the ex­tra cash, and then I was left ex­plain­ing to my bonus kids why my mom re­ally wasn’t that mean. I re­mem­ber my bonus daugh­ter say­ing, “That’s the first time I re­ally felt like your stepchild, Jan­nie.” I was fu­ri­ous with my mother un­til I thought it through.

Your mother, like mine, prob­a­bly adores her grand­chil­dren, but may worry that they will feel slighted if she openly in­cludes the new bonus kids in the gift giv­ing. She’s prob­a­bly at a loss for ex­actly how to han­dle it — and if you put it that way, you may now un­der­stand why she seems to openly defy your wishes. She doesn’t know what to do. She’s walk­ing the same tight rope bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents walk when they try to com­bine fam­i­lies. How do you show your own child love and not make your bonus chil­dren feel like sec­ond-class ci­ti­zens?

It be­gins with you set­ting the stage. Have a con­ver­sa­tion with your mother that lays the ground­work for what you would like to see. Have pa­tience. Set the ex­am­ple, and know that you may have to re­peat your­self many times for your mother to grasp how im­por­tant this is to you.

Next, grand­par­ents, look for one-on-one time with bi­o­log­i­cal grand­chil­dren when the bonus kids are with their bi­o­log­i­cal re­la­tions. That’s a per­fect time to go places and do things when it’s just the two of you. Con­nect when you are not to­gether by phone calls, email, FaceTime or Skype. There also are things like trusts or spe­cial schol­ar­ships that can be set aside for bi­o­log­i­cal re­la­tions, so pref­er­ences are not openly flaunted.

Re­mem­ber to in­clude all the kids in the fes­tiv­i­ties when you cel­e­brate to­gether. Small ges­tures go a long way to pro­mote fam­ily unity.

Fi­nally, a di­vorce or sep­a­ra­tion is never just about the cou­ple break­ing up. It has far- reach­ing im­pli­ca­tions, and ev­ery­one needs as much pa­tience and cre­ativ­ity as they can muster to make it work. That in­cludes ex­tended fam­ily. You can’t have too many peo­ple love a child. That’s good ex-eti­quette.

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