Last month I conducted a family member’s wedding. They both had been married before, and they each had kids from their previous marriage. They’re a modern-day Brady Bunch. Seeing Kelsey and Kevin joining their two families into one made me think about LGBTQ parents who have created their own blended families.
Take for example my friends Stefani and Kori. Before they became a couple, they each had two kids of their own. Stefani was the mom of Kennedy and Chase (then 10 and 13, respectively), and Kori was the mom of then 4-year-old twins, Beau and Brady. It was a mess of coming out, blending two families into one and dealing with extended families.
At first, it wasn’t very easy. “The biggest challenge we faced was the difficulty Kennedy had with me in a relationship with another woman,” Stefani told me. “She struggled for years and didn’t want any of her friends to know.”
That’s not surprising. Dr. Vanessa Lapointe, a registered psychologist and the author of the book, Parenting Right from the Start says, “If as a parent your transition into a blended family has come on the heels of coming out to your children and their other parents, then this will be the starting place of acceptance, with blending and all of the additional change and transition that comes with that being secondary.”
Kennedy did come around. She’s now her moms’ biggest advocate and loves and accepts Kori as her mother. This may have been helped by the women’s immediate use of the word “our.” The kids weren’t “yours” and “mine,” they were always “ours.” This seems to have led the kids to form a bond among themselves right from the start.
“Although it took her time to accept Kori, our daughter jumped all in with her new little brothers,” Stefani continued. “She accepted them right away, and loved being a little mommy to them.” Chase, Beau and Brady had an instant bond, likely aided by the age difference.
“Give kids some time,” Dr. Lapointe adds. “By being lovingly in the lead, setting boundaries where appropriate, and creating a big invitation for ALL emotions and feelings to flow, you are well on your way to creating a family environment that can be harmonious and connected.”
It’s also important to remember that family extends beyond parents and kids. Both women had to deal with their own parents and siblings. “My family accepted Kori and the twins immediately, which is kind of crazy when you consider their daughter and sister just came out as lesbian.” On the other hand, most of Kori’s family is actively LDS making it more challenging – but they’re working through it together and making progress.
Dr. Lapointe reminded me, “All anybody wants is to be seen and heard. Create a big invitation for welcoming the presence, emotionally and otherwise, of important family members. Love them and have your children see that love flow even if there is conflict, disagreement, or resistance.”
For other LGBTQ couples blending their families, Stefani and Kori have some great advice: “Be patient, be loving, be respectful and be thoughtful of their feelings. Remember, your kids did not get to choose their parents, nor your decisions.”
That wisdom seems to have worked. A decade on, their blended family is happy and thriving. Stefani summed up the family’s experience perfectly, “Blended and same-sex relations? There’s a unique challenge for you! But it’s been great. Our family is great. And I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Thanks Stefani and Kori for sharing your family’s experience. You can reach Dr. Lapointe at www.drvanessalapointe.com and buy her book at https://www.amazon.com/Parenting-Right-Start-Healthy-Foundation/dp/1928055389/