Like many of you, I struggled to find the support I needed as a divorced mom. The parenting websites and books I’d frequented before my separation seemed not to apply now that my home was “broken,” and the shelves of books in bookstores seemed to focus on me as a survivor or victim rather than a parent.
Resources seemed even scarcer when Gabe and I remarried, blending our family. The books we read to prepare scared us. They may have included helpful strategies, but I don’t remember. What I do remember is being shocked at the statistics the authors endlessly cited about the failure rates of marriages involving children. It felt like we were doomed to fail before we began, and it was hard to find the upside to forming a stepfamily.
Since then, I’ve made it my mission to host a candid, positive conversation about both divorce and blended family life, reducing the stigma and supporting the nearly 40% of us who have a step designation of some kind in our family. I’ve researched divorce and blended family dynamics extensively. We’ve built our tribe with a bucket of good intentions and lots of trial and error. Along the way, I’ve discovered a number of resources to help.
What’s more important than what I found though, is how I found it. If I were starting this journey all over again, here are the four things I’d tell myself before sitting down to Google divorced and blended family resources.
Seek lots of information
Read everything you can about divorce and blended family life. Learn what the research says, what others have experienced and what the experts think. Broaden your learning to other topics that might apply: I read about grief and failure and shame during my divorce.
Talk to others who have experienced some part of what you’re going through. I learned as much from a dinner Gabe and I hosted with a blended couple we knew slightly as I did from all the books I read. My conversations with adults whose parents were divorced or blended taught me about what my children might be experiencing.
I soaked up everything I could on topics even remotely related to my experience, from any and every source.
Remember all of it won’t apply
What will be true for you isn’t what has been true for everyone else. Your path to your divorce or remarriage has been uniquely yours and it will continue to be uniquely yours.
So why seek information at all? Because information is power. Knowing what works for some, many, or most blended families will help you make better choices about what might work for you. Some of what you learn will be incredibly powerful on your journey, and some will be forgotten before you close your browser.
Learn everything you can, and then through trial and error and careful consideration apply what works for you. Release the rest (and any guilt you have about not doing what “everyone” says you should).
Find support and use it early and often
We have benefited from individual counseling, joint coparenting counseling and counseling for the children. I have sat in front of a counselor in the midst of a meltdown and on days when I thought that things were so fine and dandy that counseling was a waste of time. I have always appreciated having professional support available to me, given meltdowns and crises can be hard to predict.
Social support has been important on the journey too. Whether it was a divorce recovery group, an online support network, or a standing walking date with a close friend in the blended family trenches, spending time with others navigating my same challenges has been incredibly helpful.
Prepare for the future you want
Imagine what’s possible and get really clear for yourself about what that looks, feels and sounds like, for you and your children. Do this even if it seems very far from where you are today. Accept or reject information and social support and everything else based on whether or not it aligns with your future vision.
I wanted a coparenting relationship with Billy free from the awkward divorced parent silence I saw all around me. I wanted to release the anger and move forward. Even when that felt impossible (and it did for a long time), that’s what I wanted.
I rejected websites that seemed to do nothing but complain about ex-husbands because, while there were some days I really wanted to do that (and did), sites like that didn’t support my vision. I stayed away from the snarky divorce Instagram accounts. Instead, I chose to surround myself with examples of what I hoped to become.
Remember when you were learning to drive? You kept your eyes on your destination, and the car followed. When you took your eyes off your goal, you dented a fender. Stay focused on the future you want. Want help designing that future? Click here for a free, simple worksheet to get started.
I now know that resources exist for families like ours. Not in the same numbers that exist for first families, but they do exist. I’ve been fortunate to find books and sites and coaches that support my vision and have contributed to the progress our family makes daily. We try new approaches that align with our vision and ditch ones that are no longer working. I am still reading and learning nearly every day.
Interested in specifically what has helped me? Here some of my personal favorite resources I’ve encountered on my journey.