A Blended Family’s Best Friend

 I do not always get good reception when I listen to a news broadcast in certain areas where I regularly drive, but I always try.  Today I was lucky to get reception with no static and I came in the middle of an interview and heard something that I would like to share. It was about some little girls in an elementary school setting.

It seems that a teacher was speaking with some girls that were having friendship issues and the topic of best friends came up.  The teacher told these children that it was not necessary to have a best friend and having a few very good friends can be a wonderful thing rather than having to choose and have just one best friend.

Apparently, word spread of this conversation because the journalist was interviewing a school representative and he was asked if the school had an official policy that the children were not allowed to have a best friend. The representative indicated that it was not at all a policy, but he did understand the value of what the teacher had told the students and he agreed with her statement.  Obviously, a school cannot tell children they are not allowed to have a best friend because there would be tremendous backlash. More importantly, it is nearly impossible to control the feelings one person has toward another and just saying it is not allowed is opening the necessity of children having to be involved in an emotional  cover up.

We live in a world that must divide and categorize everything and social behavior is not excused from the process.  If there are a group of children playing, it would not be difficult for each child to classify where the other children lie in respect to the level of friendship there is with each individual.  The best friend is usually the easiest to classify and then it get progressively more difficult.

How does this relate to a blended family? This is how. There is no member of a blended family that has not heard questions like: “Which are your “real” children?” “Which is your “real” mom?” “Which one is your “real” sibling?” After a while, we become more sophisticated in how to answer the questions, which I will discuss in another blog.  The point is that it is extremely difficult to blend a family and there are social norms and classifications that do not promote blending a family.  Some of the norms are actually counterproductive.

For example, the word “step” implies a movement away. It could mean forward, back or to the side.  Regardless of the direction, it is a classification that is a step away from the biological relatives.  Obviously this classification is necessary in regard to the legalities of guardianship but that is not what I am referring to.

Aside from guardianship questions, if a child in a blended family is commonly asked who their “real” family members are, they are emotionally classifying  a hierarchy of importance. In addition to that, the person who gets the answer will find it very challenging to not create that same hierarchy in their mind.

It is obvious that the “real” parent and the “real” siblings must be closer to the child than the stepparent, step-sibling, or half-sibling.  But what if that is not the case?  Are we not then creating a situation like a school with a policy that best friends are not allowed?  What if the child is closer to or equally as close to the parent who is not biologically related? What if the child feels closer to or equally as close to siblings with no blood relations.  Do these questions open children, from a blended family, up to an emotional cover up?  I wonder if they would have feelings of guilt, if they did not feel as close to the biological family members as they thought was expected?

We cannot escape the necessity of needing to know the guardianship relationships, but is there any way to promote the process of blending a family without division and classification?

Well, in our home we have a very bold policy.  We do not cultivate an environment where the word “step” or “half” is commonly used, in relation to family.

This policy is one of our blended family’s best friends.

2 of our 6 children Summer and Dylan

2 of our 6 children
Summer and Dylan

 

Best Wishes to all

Ivy Lifton

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