No one can deny that growing up in a divorced family is quite different than growing up in a nuclear family. No doubt about it. But what are the farther reaching effects on the kids than the obvious of having one home or two? Parents or step-parents? One holiday or multiple celebrations?
In my experience as a custodial step-mom of 13 years, there are many other fall outs that miss the radar or obvious attention the situations listed above receive. The one I want to unpack today is the value back and forth kids place on their possessions. Or more accurately, the lack thereof. When kids have two homes, two wardrobes, two bookshelves, two toy chests (so to speak), two sets of grandparents, two birthdays and two Christmases, overindulgence is always knocking on their door.
Add to that, the fact that very few of those possessions accompany them to their other home. In our case, nothing goes back and forth except school related items. Often times, siblings or step-siblings will use or play with those possessions when their owner is at their other home and there is nothing they can do about it. I’m not saying that is right or wrong, it just is.
So, the result is that all these items lovingly lavished on these children, sit in their rooms with pretty much equal value in the receivers eyes. Clothes, toys, electronics, books, sports equipment and family heirlooms are viewed as having equal worth. Things that may have been saved for over a long period of time or hard to find items go unappreciated. Very little attachment exists beyond the excitement that accompanied the initial receiving. How can they attach? They must regularly leave it behind. So they steel their emotions and refuse to attach as a method of self-defense. At least, that’s my observation, experience and opinion.
Now, the down side to all this is three-fold. Blended children do not learn to value an item of worth, either financial worth or sentimental worth. Second the giver is often hurt because it is clear by the child’s actions that they do not place value on the gift given. Third we unknowingly foster a selfish attitude in them when they “expect” their needs to be provided or without any responsibility on their part. Hence, the “poor so-and-so” their life is so hard because they have to do back and forth. My foot. Their lives may be hard, but blessings without accountability is NOT the answer!
These kids attribute the same value to a unique rock they found on a hike as they do to a top of the line newly released hand held gaming device. They see no more value in an expensive piece of jewelry as a journal and pen set. If they lose a playing piece to a game or can’t find a certain stuffed animal, they shrug it off with no concern or care for the future players of the game or a younger sibling that “dreams” of one-day inheriting said stuffed Disney “limited edition” animal.
I don’t see any clear solutions here except for the observation that the valuing of certain possessions for multiple reasons is something that most nuclear kids naturally acquire but needs to be intentionally taught to the blended kids. Time must be spent explaining to him that he is responsible for the upkeep and charging of his electronic devices because it is the training ground for vehicle ownership someday. She needs to understand that the necklace that Dad gave her at Christmas cost a LOT of money and shouldn’t be taken off, thrown in her purse and tangled up a mess with costume jewelry. They need to be told that the heirloom grandpa is passing down to them is to be treasured as a connection to the past and the history of the family, a physical representation of a legacy they will carry on.
Shedding selfishness that manifests as “I don’t care about that,” and learning to maintain their possessions is important because one day they will live in a dorm or apartment with a roommate. One day they will spend their own precious money on necessary things and they must maintain them up so they will last. The “oh well” attitude will not sit well with future spouses either. I can attest to that. Just because things can be replaced does not excuse the lack of care that may lead to their demise. We are to be good stewards of what God has blessed us with.
Technology Man, who grew up in a blended family, visiting two homes, still to this day as a grown adult, struggles with placing value on anything outside of relationships. While that is in and of itself admirable, letting repairs and maintenance linger could be a dangerous attitude as the provider for the family. Just as relationships are a give and take, the preciousness of others needs and their interests must factor into the equation at some point.
Possessions, in the grand scheme of things, do not really matter and we cannot take them with us. However, we must have them to survive and thrive. In a blended family, instilling a balanced attitude towards possessions and placing appropriate value on them appears to be part of the package deal.
Do your kids or step-kids have an intrinsic sense of value? How could we teach that?