Blending Your StepFamily: The Challenges of Reentry & Dealing with “Disneyland Parenting”

Blending Your StepFamily: The Challenges of Reentry & Dealing with “Disneyland Parenting” February 11, 2015

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From Pam Rohr, author of Blended but not Broken – Hope and Encouragement for Blended Families:

Have you noticed your child’s behavior change before and/or after staying with the other parent?

Children in shared custody will go through a settling in time.  One Dad who has full custody speaks of his child’s coming home after a stay with his mom as “Reentry”.  This is the time when the child usually has to be reminded of the rules in the house and what is expected of them.  This could be a frustrating time for the parents but remember, it’s not easy for the child either.  They have two sets of rules and expectations and need to remember that what may be acceptable in one home is not acceptable in the other.

Children’s behavior may alter when coming back into the home.   Some may be quiet or subdued, yet others may be overactive and seeking attention.  Allow your child time to adjust. You may also find your child’s behavior changes prior to a visit; some withdraw emotionally before making the transition back to the other parent’s house.  These behaviors are typical symptoms of the emotions children go through as they cope with having to say good-bye to one parent and settle into life with their other parent.  I recommend being patient, firm and loving as you help your child to readjust to living between two homes. 

It’s common for a child to feel insecure during their visit to the non-custodial parent particularly if they are remarried and the family has recently formed.  Insecurity can cause them to behave in a needy or clingy manner with their parent.

So have a routine in place to smooth the transition between homes.  Having a routine helps children feel secure by providing clear guidance on when, where and how things will happen; this will help them to know what to anticipate.   On the other hand, lack of structure during visits can leave a child feeling awkward and uncertain because they don’t know what’s expected of them.  Even as adults, we function better if we know what we are walking into and what is expected of us.  Help your child transition through clear guidance and expectations.  You don’t need to be rigid in your schedule but have a structure in place to avoid the guilt driven “Disneyland parenting”. 

Also, let your children know that you miss them while they are gone but you want them to have a good time and enjoy their other family.  When they do return, don’t pump them for information.  They will share what they want to when they are ready.  If they feel pressured to spy on the other family or report back to you about what’s going on in the other home, loyalty issues will most likely arise.  Children love both of their parents and if a parent is “not worthy” the child will recognize it.  Let your child feel free to have a good time and to love their other parent.

For the non custodial parent, Give children age appropriate duties or responsibilities, not so much to help you out but to help them feel a sense of belonging and significance in your home. Allocate time for a family activity and time for them to spend alone with their biological parent.  Before they leave, organize a meal together where you can discuss what you’ve done and what will happen during their next visit.  You could ask them if there is anything they would like to do during their next visit.

As parents, one of our goals should be as Luke 2:52 says:

And Jesus (put your child’s name in there) grew in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and with men.

And also keep in mind what Peter wrote in 1 Peter 4:8-9:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

Until next time, please check out my website at to purchase my book or to contact me personally.

Thanks and have a blessed day as you blend your stepfamily.

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