What happens next? Information for kids about separation and divorce

Chapter Six: Blended families and extended families, foster families and guardianship

Melody’s story

Melody and her new baby brother

Everything seemed to go well for Melody’s parents until her dad got a job out of town. Then things got worse and her dad moved out. After a while her mom started to see someone else who liked Melody and her sister Violet. Melody was happy.

Melody still saw her dad whenever he came back into town to visit. Then her dad moved back to town and introduced them to his girlfriend, Jenna. Jenna was going to have a baby, and Jenna and Melody’s dad were going to get married. Maybe Melody would have the baby brother she always wanted. Now, Melody had even more family and everything seemed just right to her. She spent some time with her mom and her sister Violet, who stayed with her mom; Melody had her own room at her dad’s home and spent time with her new brother and Jenna.

Blended families like Melody's are made up of kids all living under the same roof but who have different moms or dads. It can be tough to be part of a blended family. The more people you put into a room together, the harder it can be for them to get along with each other without arguing, right?

Blended families are a little like that. You have six people sharing a bathroom instead of two. Different people often have different beliefs, like different foods, and have different ideas about bedtimes, school and discipline. This can make blended families complicated.

Maybe one or both of your parents has married someone who already has kids and you suddenly have a whole lot of stepsisters and stepbrothers.

No matter what kind of changes happen with your parents' living arrangements, your parents are still your parents — even if you have to share their time, affection and money with their new husband or wife and other kids.

Ron’s grandmother takes charge

Ron doing his homework with his grandmother

Ron’s parents split up when he was a toddler. Things went okay for a while, but in the last couple of years, Ron’s mother had trouble with drinking. She drank a lot and when she did, she got angry and started yelling, calling Ron names and hitting him. If Ron’s grandmother was around, she would step in between Ron and his mom.

One night after Ron appeared at his grandmother’s house quite late, she decided it was time for a change. She wiped away his tears and told him not to worry. Tucking him into bed that night, she promised, "I’m going to speak to your mom myself. You are going to stay with me until she gets her drinking under control. I love you."

After Ron moved in with his grandmother, he missed his mom a lot but he didn’t miss the way she treated him. Things began to get better. His grandmother helped him with his homework and his grades improved. He made some friends and started to play baseball.

Ron’s grandmother filed papers at the court asking that she be responsible for his care and schooling and giving her the right to make decisions for him. When permission was granted, she became like his parent. He decided to call her "Big Mom".

Sometimes, parents can't take care of kids because of their drinking or drug problems or because they may have a mental illness. If living with them puts you at risk of harm, you will be moved to a safe place until the situation improves. A member of your extended family like a grandparent or aunt, or a social services agency may become your guardian.

If members of your family can't take care of you, you may go to live in a foster home, or a group home where trained staff will take care of you. The idea is to keep you safe.

If a friend, teacher or any other adult sees that you are not getting proper care or that you are being abused or neglected by your parents, they must tell an outside agency. It's the law. You will only be taken into care as a last resort. This will be done to protect you. A social worker will talk to you about what's happening in your family. The social worker will also talk to your parents about your situation.

If you have extended family, like grandparents or aunts and uncles, you may move into their home. Your aunt may become your foster mom. Many kids grow up with their grandparents or aunts in the role of their parents, especially if their own parents can't take care of them.

Remember…

  • Blended families can be tough but they can also be great.
  • When kids go into foster care it's because their parents can't take care of them, not because the kids have done something wrong.

What do whales like to chew?

Answer: Blubber gum

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