What about the Previous Extended Family?

When you have children, it’s important to help them stay connected to the other biological parent’s family. Too often, second marriages result in broken extended-family relationships, and this will hurt the children. They are forever connected to that biological extended family, for better or for worse. They are related by blood and by heritage, whether or not you are married to their biological parent. Neither death nor divorce can change that reality.

Unless it’s an abusive or unsafe situation, your children need relationships with both sides of grandparents and the extended family, even when they are the “ex” family to you, or if that parent is no longer alive.

Why is this important?

  • Because your children need to stay connected to their blood relatives, to learn about their heritage, and to feel a part of their relatives lives.
  • Because your children need the reassurance that family goes on, even when there’s a divorce or death. They need to know that family matters, and that family is there for life.
  • Because your children need family members to encourage them, support them, and cheer them on as they grow and mature, whether it’s a school play, recital, or sports event, or later when it’s time for college, marriage, or a career.
  • Because your children need to know it’s okay to have relationships with the other family members without you being bothered by it. They need to know you love them enough to let them share that biological bond.
  • Because they already share a special bond with these family members and do not need another “divorce” or “death” by separation from them.

Better yet, gaining the support of grandparents and step-grandparents will greatly benefit the children by giving them continuity, love, and the reassurance that they need. Grandparents and step-grandparents can also play an important role in helping children adjust to a blending family, if they all are made to feel accepted and comfortable in their role. Demonstrate your acceptance of them. Invite them to participate in your family life. Help grandparents and step-grandparents navigate the relationships by clearly defining your needs and expectations.

How can you do this?

  • Reassure them that you want them to have relationships with the grandchildren, and encourage them to continue the relationships as before.
  • Plan events so new step-grandparents can get to know the children, and let them know that there’s no “step” in grandparenting as far as you’re concerned.
  • Encourage your children to call, visit, write, e-mail, and Skype with family members, especially all the grandparents, regularly. Whether it’s a weekly or monthly contact, make it a regular and special event.
  • Share events in your child’s life such as science fairs, school fundraisers, great report cards, and so on.
  • Invite them to ball games, recitals, honor celebrations, graduations, and so on.
  • Take pictures and share them regularly.
  • Include them in holiday giving, even if it’s just a simple Christmas card.
  • Acknowledge their birthday or other special occasions.

Grandparents, step-grandparents, and the extended family from all sides can give love and support like no one else can, and the lasting rewards will be great. This network of loving adults can be an important part of the second-marriage and blending family journey.

Adapted from The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness and Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage. Copyright © 2012, all rights reserved. Visit www.SusanGMathis.com for more


Susan and Dale Mathis are passionate about helping couples prepare for marriage and for remarriage, since they are a remarried couple themselves. Dale has two master's degrees in counseling and has worked in counseling and human resources for over 30 years. Susan, the founding editor of Thriving Family magazine, has written prolifically for magazines and newspapers and continues to serve as a consultant, freelance editor and writer, and speaker. As a couple they enjoy camping, hiking, biking, and visiting family and friends around the world. Their blended family includes five adult children and three granddaughters. For more information about Susan or Dale, visit their website.

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