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My personal recipe for a successful reconstituted family

Roxanne Bélanger ,

With spring break around the corner, I would like to spotlight my own reconstituted family. Our reality can be complex but nothing is impossible with love and quality moments. You might find some inspiration in the way we tackled some of our challenges. Maybe you’ll recognize yourself in this article.

No 0 : Context

I met my partner almost 5 years ago. I told him right away: “I’m telling you right now, I have two little boys and they’re part of the deal”. A bit rough when I look back on it, but it was very clear, I knew what I wanted. I also think he liked that because he also had a little girl who was just as important for him as my kids are for me.

No 1 : Conscience

Being part of a reconstituted family, I could, to a certain extent, put myself in their shoes. I had an understanding of what they were about to go through, but still had in mind the horrible stepmother we see in fairy tales.

I didn't necessarily want to be cool either. I wanted to welcome them with what I had to offer: love for a new child. This new child I didn’t know who suddenly entered my life, not as a baby, but as a 7-year old with all her before me history. It was hard on my ego...

No 2 : The welcome

When you’re about to give birth to a child, you get his bedroom ready and make all the necessary preparations for his arrival without even knowing anything about him. During the first few months, you start to discover who he is, you get to know him.

I think you should do the same with a reconstituted family. You should be patient and give physical and emotional space to the new child. It doesn’t have to be quick. As with your own children, you will have to use trial and error while staying open and fulfilling your role...

No 3 : The right role...

It’s not easy to figure out where you belong in a child’s life when he already has two parents. Especially considering the fact the the words stepmother and stepfather are often used negatively. At first, I refused to even use the term.

I also knew I would never be her mother. That spot was already taken and I had to respect that. Accepting that was hard, but necessary. I was then able to play on another, better playing field. I still wanted to figure out where my place was though.

After a while, I realized I wasn’t the only one in this situation. The whole family was trying to adapt. We all had to explore our new roles and find our balance.

A year later, it was the child who claimed I was her parent. Wow! That was a great moment! Children often have simple solutions to problems. She adapted so well! I now know that I want to be important for her and I want to be there when she needs me. I also want her to respect me. I would never have achieved this without the space and trust my partner gave me. I am also happy that he managed to find his place amongst my children.

No 4 : Rules

We had to decide what was negociable and what wasn’t. Reconstituted families require rule adjustments between parents who have the last word when it comes to their own children. Each child also has his own needs. We had to find appropriate common rules and that wasn’t easy!

What helped us was to learn how to express our limits. It was hard seeing him intervene with my kids when I wasn’t ready. I’m pretty sure he felt the same the first times I intervened with his daughter.

It was important for us to respect our own adaptation speed within this new family. From there, we built the right rules while keeping in mind that it should always be possible to find solutions that make everyone happy!

No 5 : Trust

Trust is key! My boyfriend and I developed our trust for each other. We made plans and we helped each other. We talked about our limits and we gave ourselves time and space. We are convinced that if we are to live under the same roof, we need to be one family, not two. And this family must be built one day at a time.

I leave you with the bedtime reading that helped me throughout this process:

« La famille recomposée : une famille composée sur un air différent. » Marie-Christine Saint-Jacques, Claudine Parent. Montréal : Éditions de l’Hôpital Sainte-Justine

A second edition is also available!

Famille recomposée 2e édition : Des escales, mais quel voyage! Marie-Christine Saint-Jacques, Claudine Parent. Collection du CHU Ste-Justine pour les parents.

Roxanne Bélanger

Vice President of Operations

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