Thursday, March 10, 2016

Guru Jane: Bringing Baby Home to Older Kids

Dear Guru Jane,

I'm newly married and expecting a baby. I am really excited, but I feel kind of guilty too. My husband has two kids from a previous marriage. They are good kids and I love them - and even like them most of the time - but I get the feeling they are not really excited we are having a baby. I want them to feel loved and welcomed in our home, but I don't want to downplay my excitement about our baby. When my husband or I talk about the baby on the phone, one of the girls (who is 9) gets a little bit quiet and the other girl (who is 12) gets snarky. I know my husband feels bad that he wasn't there for them after his divorce from their mother, but why should I have to be less excited for my baby? I just don't know how to handle it all. How can I be sensitive to their needs, and still be true to myself and my baby?


Pregnant and Confused

Dear Pregnant and Confused,

First off, CONGRATS! A baby is very exciting and nerve-racking all at the same time under normal circumstances. Throw in a new marriage, step-kids, and what sounds like al little jealousy - and you have a whole different kettle of fish! You have every right to be excited about the new addition to your family. This is an exciting and fun time. Be happy! Be excited! Be overjoyed! But don't be guilty.

Now, on to the not so fun part: KIDS ARE HARD! Biological kids are hard! Step-kids are hard! Adoptive kids are hard! You are going to have to remember that, unless you are a complete and total bitch (and I highly doubt you are), this is not personal. It sounds like you have two little girls who are hurt and possibly feel abandoned. While this should not take away your joy for your own baby, it is a factor that needs to be addressed. 

This is a time for you and your husband to work together. It is more than just trying to include the girls in the excitement; it is about making sure the girls understand that the baby is an addition to your family - meaning an addition to the four of you. It is important for your husband to take the lead on this, as they are his birth children. He needs to be open with them. He needs to talk to them. He needs them to know and understand that he loves them. You can also be available to them, especially if you already have a relationship with the girls.

I will almost always recommend therapy. Maybe start with therapy for you and him. Understanding his feelings on the subject might go a long way to understanding the girls' feelings. It might also help him to verbalize his feelings in order for him to better understand them. Plus, you need to be honest with him. Make sure he knows how you feel - that the relationship with the girls is important to you, but it is also currently hurtful and makes you sad.

How is the relationship with his ex? Would she be willing to help with emotionally supporting the girls? As hard as co-parenting is, studies have shown it really is the best and healthiest way to raise kids after a divorce. If she is of the psycho variety, well, never mind. But if she isn't, have your husband (and possibly you) talk to her. I'd be willing to bet that she knows what is going on with the girls. Even if the ex is still angry with him, they are her girls and she probably doesn't want them feeling sad or hurt. If you can all work together, this might be a whole lot easier.

Talk to the girls - both you and your husband. Be open with them about your concerns and your excitement. Help them to understand that you have enough love in your heart for all of them. Listen to them. This is the most important part: allow them to have their feelings and express their feelings. This might help you understand where they are coming from, and where you need to help them go. They don't get to be assholes, but they are kids. Between divorce, abandonment, (possibly) feeling replaceable, and let's not forget hormones, there are a lot of feelings zinging all over the place. When kids don't understand their feelings, those feelings take on actions and sometimes those actions come out sideways.

Making a family is hard; kids are hard. This isn't going to be an easy fix. Chances are there is a lot of pain there, but there is also a lot of love. Work with the love. Build new love on the excitement of all of you sharing the new baby together. The time invested now will be worth it!

Good luck and Congratulations!

Guru Jane

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