It’s no secret that everyone at one time or another has had conflict in their lives, whether it be with members of your immediate family, your friends or your work colleagues. Blended/step-families are no strangers to the same types of conflicts. Often times, it is the children within these families that experience the most pain and conflict, and most of the time, parents are so wrapped up in the pain and emotions of their divorce that they unintentionally forget about the adjustments their children are having to make. More often than not, they themselves do not understand the emotional effects that are taking place with their children until it either spirals out of control or causes resentment, both of which becomes damaging to a child’s self worth, self-esteem and confidence.
The first tool that parents seem to turn to when their children are experiencing conflict is counseling. At first glance, this seems like the right thing to do, correct? Not always. Some have even suggested that a child being rushed into counseling, alone, can actually cause more harm than good.
In an article I recently had the pleasure of reading by Gary Direnfield, MSW, RSW in Adoption Week E-Magazine (Blended Family/Kids in Distress: What to Do?), he discussed this very subject. Mr. Direnfield suggested that all parents (including step-parents) attend counseling first, together. However, I am very aware that a great majority of people would not find this idea appeasing and would not be attainable. If it’s not attainable, he suggests separate counseling for the parents, but with the same counselor. Mr. Direnfield’s advice is simply put. Kids in distress? PARENTS GO TO COUNSELING FIRST! After reading his article, and with a little more research, I would tend to agree.
Counseling is an opportunity to resolve conflict through open communication. For example, if we have a problem with a friend or a co-worker, usually one person will initate communication to try to resolve the situation or you will talk to your supervisor. As parents, in the eyes of our children, we are charged to have all of the answers, and unfortunately, quite simply, we do not always. Sometimes we need help. Parents obtaining counseling before their children during times of conflict will be able to not only diffuse distress in their kids lives, but also learn how to better effectuate their own communication skills as well and amongst each other. As Mr. Direnfield so eloquently wrote, for children in distress, in the context of adjustment to a new blended family, rather than just sending the children off to counseling, parents and their partners should enter counseling or for a lack of a better term “parent education” first.
Obviously, BFSO readers, I realize that every persons situation in their respective blended families is different and the circumstances surrounding same need to be taken into consideration, but I tend to agree with Mr. Direnfield’s opinion that parents should attend counseling either first or along with their children in times of conflict to help open up comunication and hopefully find resolution.
BFSO readers, I would love to hear your opinion on this matter!
Peace & Blessings,