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The Blended Family and Anger Management

Updated on October 10, 2017
PAINTDRIPS profile image

With 2 of her own, Denise remarried and brought 2 children from her husband together to explore what it means to be a blended family.

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Always showing her behind

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Step Parenting means Anger Management

Statics say that more than half of marriages end in divorce in this country (US). With that said, the possibilities of second chance marriages is on the rise and that means step parenting. Lots of stepparenting. If you aren't one, you probably know one personally or even have one in your family. All over the country, unsuspecting moms and dads are being presented with problems and issues they never anticipated from their children and stepchildren. Why is step parenting so hard?

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Dealing with Loss

You need to take into consideration that divorce means there was a loss and the child is sometimes still dealing with it even years later. Either through divorce or death, there had to be a loss for a stepparent to even come into the picture. This means that there are grieving children who are angry and have few healthy ways to express that grief. Add to that a virtual stranger (step mom or dad) and it is a formula for disaster, or at least a Mount Vesuvius eruption. When the children act out, it is very hard for the poor stepparent to do anything but take it or power down on the kids. Powering down adds to the no-win dilemma. No matter what we do we stepparents are in the doghouse, or the witch’s candy house, depending on how you look at it.

Angry Children out of Control

Emotions

I think a major fact is the fact that they are children. First, children do know how to react to grief. They can have a good day, even a good week where they are happy, but then remember that they miss the absent mom or dad, and then feel guilty for feeling happy.

No Fishing

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Acting out

Second, there just aren’t any avenues for a child to express grief and anger. They don’t have the autonomy to express how they feel. They usually don’t want to hurt the present parent but they are still angry. Holding it in doesn’t help so eventually it all blows up and they act out.

Stress

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How do you handle your own angry feelings?

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One more straw

Third, they still have regular kid things to do and try to focus on: school, homework, sibling rivalry, peer pressure, chores, etc. The grief and anger just add a volatile acid to the mix and that’s never good.

Angry

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Happy vs. Sad

Fourth, they are presented with a stepparent, a person they never asked for or wanted, to make the present parent happy. The happiness of the parent only makes their anger and grief more punctuated. I can really understand why someone’s happiness makes my sadness more pronounced, so it is not surprise that a child feels that too.

Anger Issues

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Divided

Fifth, add to all this that often the child has been divided between two households during the year, often during each week. They have two separate and different sets of chores, rules, bedtimes, and of course, anger issues. How can they hope but be anything but schizophrenic in the face of that.

Broken

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Schizophrenia

One of the Symptoms of Schizophrenia is a lack of normal conduct as compared to healthy individuals. This could include having no natural emotions, uninterested in their surroundings, lacking enthusiasm, and difficulties carrying on a conversation.

Dealing with Anger

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How do you handle an angry child?

An angry child is more than just an unpleasant experience! I know. They can get violent, sullen, holding the grudge or attitude for days and weeks, destructive to their siblings, peers and even lash out at nearby adults… look out! The most common cause of anger in a child is when they don’t get what they want. Either what they want was taken away or what they want they cannot have. Both of those happen in the divorce and blended family situation.

How do you handle an angry child? Yelling, time-out, punishment, banishment? How you handle the anger and calm the child will make the difference between finding out the cause to solving the problem and causing more destruction and damage. I have always felt that telling a child not to be angry is useless. They feel what they feel. Telling the child that anger is “bad” or “wrong” is futile too. We all have anger from time to time. The key is how to express that anger. What to do with it when you have it.

When there is no outlet for them to express the anger, dialog, or show how they feel, anger can turn inward. The child will find ways of letting it out that are not so safe or healthy. They will have feelings of hurting other, revenge, manipulation and hostile behavior. This is how bullies are made.

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Model Good Behavior

I think one of the hardest methods of dealing with your child or stepchild’s anger is to look in the mirror. How do YOU handle anger. Remember your child has been watching you all his or her life. And if the child has been through a divorce, then so have you. What do you do when you are angry at the absent spouse? To require your child or stepchild to behave in a healthy manner when they feel anger, you must first model it.

This hit home for me when I realized that I didn’t act too well toward my children’s father on the phone. I often yelled at him. They didn’t hear his side of it but they sure saw and heard my side. It was no wonder when my oldest daughter began yelling out her anger toward her siblings, just as I had done. Once I cleaned up my act, I could then turn my attention to helping her get over hers.

My first plan of attack was to make ways that my children could express their anger in healthy ways.

The Mad Family

Possible Healthy Expressions

When dealing with an angry child, it is first helpful to separate the child from the anger cause. He or she is, after all, a child and doesn’t know what to do with these feelings. Acting out is all they can think of. If you can talk to them and get them to voice their concerns and their anger triggers, it can help. However on the younger children, they sometimes can’t put into words what the real root cause is. They just know how they feel.

Stomp

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Anger Mat:

In my house we had an Anger Mat. I took a doormat and drew footprints on it with a permanent marker. The instructions are simple: When angry, place feet here, jump up and down until anger subsides. So instead of throwing things or hurtling mean words around, my angry child jumped up and down until she felt at least a little better and was able to put into constructive words what was bothering her.

Cooking

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Cooking:

Not everyone needs to pound or run or jump up and down. Sometimes a batch of cookies worked just as well. My girls and son were often cooking for therapy to get away from the others and just think. Plus the added calming effect of eating is added. I always felt that it also added an element of being functional and helpful to the family, i.e. cooking a meal or desert.

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Gardening:

I love working in a garden for many reasons but beyond the fresh fruit and vegetables, working in the dirt is cathartic. Not only getting dirt under my fingernails but also because pulling weeds and hoeing rows makes me feel better. I often got my angry children into planting things with me. Many of them still garden now that they are grown and have families of their own. Pounding the ground and clawing at the ground hurts no one and actually helps get out angry energy.

Kim and her duck.
Kim and her duck. | Source
Nat and her rabbit.
Nat and her rabbit. | Source
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Petting animals:

Whenever they could, the girls would go out to the barn to pet the rabbits, chickens, ducks or dogs. I know not everyone can have animals in their backyard, but I can’t stress the value and calming influence on a child of petting an animal. Cats and dogs are extremely understanding and nurturing as well as calming influences. I owe a debt to all our pets for helping my children through some rough patches.

Running

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Running:

When the Anger Mat was in use or not available, we had a running course around the house. If weather permitted the angry child would run as fast as she or he could around the house until she felt better. Actually I think any exercise would have done the job, but running seems to have been the best therapy for my family.

Pottery:

We were a very creative family and usually had clay available for creating pottery. The best part of creating pots is that the clay needs to be pounded before you can begin. I would make this available when needed. A hunk of clay was given, aprons secured and the pounding and kneading began. Sometimes the clay was pounded so long it became dry but adding some water or starting over was a small price to pay for the therapy that the pounding did. They always felt better after the pounding and were actually able to create some awesome pots with it.

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Conclusion:

Some anger issues are beyond these simple helps. Sometimes there is no other recourse but to seek professional help for the anger and issues your child faces. If you need to get professional help for your child, don’t feel you have failed. There are times when we all need help to get past a deep seated issue.

There is help out there for the good stepparents to deal with those anger issues that all blended families have to face sooner or later. I hope there have been some suggestions here that could be of help to you and your family.

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Hopeful comments welcomed

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    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      lawrence01,

      I realize anything can make a child angry. It's quite possible that even if my first husband and I had stayed together my oldest daughter may still have had an anger issue. I just gave her ammunition as it were. So you are right, blended or not blended, lots of family have to handle angry children who don't know how to articulate their problems so they lash out. Thanks so much for your visit and your insights.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Denise

      Reading this made me realize how much we identify with the stuff you talk about, and we're not a blended family!

      Awesome hub

      Lawrence

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      florypaula,

      That sounds like good advice. I'd love to read about it when you write it. I'll keep my eyes pealed for it.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • florypaula profile image

      Paula 

      3 years ago

      Unfortunately I have no idea Denise. I was thinking about writing something somewhat related to this, but how to accept the step parent ... I guess just taking it day by day and for the step parent to be tremendously understanding

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      florypaula,

      It's sad but true. Do you think there is any solution at all to make the situation better for children? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • florypaula profile image

      Paula 

      3 years ago

      Someone once said that it doesn't matter if you are three years old or 30 years old, your parent's divorce, misunderstandings or fights hurt just as bad ... and how right that is. You don't understand it no matter what age you are, and it is impossible not to see the new step parent as the enemy, even if they appeared after the parents separated.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      lollyj lm,

      Thank you. I lived through it and thought it may be of help to others.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 

      3 years ago from Washington KS

      Good information, written and presented well. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      social thoughts,

      I thought of that too, but always wondered if the habit of "destroying" was not one I wanted to foster. I'm sure psychologists would know whether that was a viable option in this case or not. I am not sure.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • social thoughts profile image

      social thoughts 

      3 years ago from New Jersey

      This is a great article, Denise! You provide some techniques I had never thought of! The clay and gardening are brilliant! Thanks! One of my friends has an emotional disorder, and told me her mom bought her three large stuffed bunnies she could destroy when going through stuff. I thought I'd pass that along to you and your readers as another method.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      travmaj,

      Mine are grown now too, and I lived to tell about it. More importantly, I let them live to tell about it... lol. Thank you for the positive feedback.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 

      3 years ago from australia

      You certainly covered many aspects of parenting/step parenting here. Most informative and I'm confident many readers will benefit from reading it. My children are grown now but I recall many such moments. Good to know help is always there and to read some personal solutions.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      BlossomSB,

      Thank you very much for the encouraging comment. It's true that a lot of things Blended families face are unique to the situation.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Such a well-written and comprehensive hub. Blended families can be a delight, but they can also have issues that traditional families never have to face. Congratulations on writing such an encouraging article.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      Theresa Jonathan,

      Well said! I agree wholeheartedly. On top of that, today there are many self-help books and websites and even churches/pastors for those who know they need more, and what they are doing isn't working. Thirty years ago, very few authors and pastors wanted to even address the issue of divorce and second chance marriages, much less deal with the fall out. We felt like we were on our own.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Theresa Jonathan profile image

      Theresa Jonathan 

      3 years ago from Maseru, Lesotho

      A good Hub! Anger is the most common reaction of divorce both on parents and children. Children blame themselves, because they may have overheard parent arguing over parental principles. While this assumption may be true to a lesser extend; it leaves a dent in their beliefs and values and surely will emerge in their parenting style too. If you are parenting angry children and you know you are not making any positive impact, do seek professional help! Emotional hurt is curable like other physical illnesses. Yes step parenting is a challenge and you need guidance too!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      Pollyanna Jones,

      I think you are right. These would work anywhere. I know my oldest daughter might have had anger issues as a teen, divorce or no divorce. Anyway, I know these methods are child tested, mother approved... lol.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Pollyanna Jones profile image

      Pollyanna Jones 

      3 years ago from United Kingdom

      This was very interesting. I think a lot of these could apply to most children! I'll be trying some of your ideas for constructive ways to vent anger next time we have a tantrum in the house!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      denise.w.anderson,

      Thank you. I'm glad you think these are methods that could be used by anyone. I especially love pounding clay for pots!

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 

      3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks for sharing these creative ways to deal with anger. Whether or not a person is in a blended family, it makes sense to find creative ways to handle it, no matter what our age.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      Dana Tate,

      I'm so sorry you had that experience. Is there anything you think your dad could have done to make the situation better? I would love to hear your thoughts.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      Larry Rankin,

      You are absolutely right. Everyone is different and handles loss and grief different ways. Thanks for visiting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Dana Tate profile image

      Dana Tate 

      3 years ago from LOS ANGELES

      Blending families can be hard. I was so young when my parent's divorced I don't remember them being married. I felt lost in the blend when other children came along. I didn't have the best example of step-parents. My father married two other women who tried to be nice but, I was still able to feel the jealousy and resentment every time I came around. It caused a rift between me and my father that still has not been completely healed to this day.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      Always important to make everyone feel like an equally important part of the family unit.

      Great hub!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      crazymom3,

      Sounds to me like you have lived in the battle zone before. I hope things are going well for you now. There is life after the kids and step kids finally leave home. Just hold on.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      crazymom3,

      Absolutely, you are right. There should be a rule or something that the new parent can't make any rules for the new step children until they have been married two years. The kids just won't receive those new rules well anyway.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      crazymom3,

      So true and only if they bother to SEEK counseling. So there's that. I know what it's like to have half the family in denial that there is even a problem.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      Akriti Mattu,

      Thank you very much. I know what it's like to have an angry child living under my roof and the difficulties reaching her. I hope I helped someone having a similar problem.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • crazymom3 profile image

      crazymom3 

      3 years ago

      Many step parents fail to understand that they are marrying the parent not the children and their focus should be the parent not their children. As hard as it may be to accept children don't get to choose who their parent marries and should not be expected tp care for them or love them. Acceptance can happen but only with kindness and a very long long time, until then the step parent is simply or can be an unwelcomed guest in their life.

    • crazymom3 profile image

      crazymom3 

      3 years ago

      There is a common misconception out there, specially from men I think, that when they marry someone with children they are there to take control and fix those children for that parent and that they want to be in charge, but really they should be there to hold, hug and support the other parent and their struggle with their children, not take over it.

    • crazymom3 profile image

      crazymom3 

      3 years ago

      Thank you for addressing this and offering some ways to help. This is common everywhere but it isn't just the children that are angry. It is the parents and step parents as well. Counseling for the whole family should help but unfortunately only if the people involved follow it.

    • Akriti Mattu profile image

      Akriti Mattu 

      3 years ago from Shimla, India

      A lot of people should read this piece. Very well written. Voted up.

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