Many marriages end in divorce, and many divorced adults have children from their first marriage. Many of these parents will marry again, perhaps adding new children to the marriage, creating a blended family. A blended family can include half-siblings, step-siblings and children from the current marriage. It can also include a wide range of ages, resulting in big gaps in age between all kinds of siblings and making creative parenting a necessity to keep everyone feeling included.
Introducing a new baby into a blended family situation can be tricky at best, but having older half-siblings can complicate the picture even further. Sixty percent of children with divorced or unmarried parents will gain a half-sibling by their mom, dad or both by the age of 10. Typical sibling jealously will present in different ways with a larger age gap between siblings. Children may worry that their parent is replacing them with a new family or be stressed out that they have to leave to go to their other parent's house while the baby gets to stay. If they are going from being an only child, gaining a much younger sibling may cause worry about keeping their own room, doing their own activities and possibly adjusting to a step-parent who is becoming an official mom or dad to their sibling.
Children in any family may have different interests, but in a blended family, kids may have very different upbringings and ideas about how and what activities should be happening at any given time. When there is also a large age gap between the siblings, compromise can be an issue. Splitting up siblings and parents by age or interest can work for some outings, but if you are hoping for a family activity for a wide range of ages, get creative -- you'll need activities that offer at least a little something for each member of the group.
Custody and extracurricular schedules vary greatly by family, but try to take into account the ages of the children when making plans. In a blended family with a large age gap between siblings, try to manage the children's schedules so that there are times when all the siblings can be at home together, and times when each child may get some individualized attention. If you have a child who lives with you all the time while older kids travel between parents' houses, make sure the travelers especially get some individual time with you so they don't feel lost in the shuffle of a new family structure.
Second marriages and people having children at later ages has resulted in many blended families that include both young children and adult children. While adult children may not experience typical sibling rivalry when it comes to their much younger siblings, they may still have mixed feelings when it comes to their new brothers or sisters. Adults may feel jealous that the younger kids have an intact family, a more engaged parent or are more financially secure. They may also feel like their parent is getting a "do over" and correcting mistakes they may have made the first time around. An adult sibling in a blended family may feel more like an aunt or uncle, so don't forget they are still their parent's child and an important part of the blended family.
The focus in blended families with a large age gap between children is often on the older children. However, as the younger children get older and more aware, they will develop their own perspective on their family structure. They may struggle with older children leaving for periods of time to go to another parent's house. Try to keep schedules consistent and plan time for siblings to spend time together as well as time apart to minimize stress on the relationship and to keep the little ones from feeling disappointed when their older sibling is not available.
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