My husband and I are Julian's only parents. Our other five children have their other parents from prior marriages. I have written in the past about the child who is born into an already blended family. Feelings of loneliness is likely for the only child of these circumstances. One day the siblings are there; one day they are not. There is a continuous wave of familial change. It is difficult when the days apart are two or three days a week, but when college comes into the equation, the feelings are difficult to alleviate.
Julian's oldest brother is currently in college. The sadness that comes from the separateness is not easily comforted and it is compounded by the anticipation of future siblings' plans to leave for college. Julian is so in-tuned to his life that he can tell you exactly how old he will be when each of his siblings will depart to pursue their education. It is challenging to witness his suffering. The only way I knew to help was to teach this passionate child about perspective.
In Judaism, there is something called a mitzvah. A mitzvah is a good deed. Whenever the children have encountered a hardship at the hands of another, I have encouraged a mindset to think of the action as a mitzvah. When the children inquire as to how someone causing some harm to them is a mitzvah, I have explained that it is an opportunity for them to learn through experience to not imitate that same behavior because it causes pain to others. In addition, it is also a time to reflect on what led to the event to learn whatever they can to have inner growth. This perspective is about taking what you can from a situation and learning from it, as opposed to feeling victimized or vengeful.
What does this have to do with Julian and his siblings slow departure to college? It is about perspective. It is the way it is viewed and what you can take from the situation.
This is how I explained it to Julian:
Missing someone is a blessing. Julian misses his big brother because he loves him very much and has a deep connection with him and the feeling is mutual between the two of them. To know love is a gift. Loving someone and knowing the feeling of being loved is the ultimate gift in life; the alternative can truly cause a lonely existence. I told Julian that every time he feels a sadness from missing his big brother he needs to say these words: " I miss my brother, thank goodness." This is a way for Julian to view the love side of missing someone, otherwise the sadness can get in the way of the full picture. Remembering why you miss someone is the time to remind yourself that you miss someone because there is an enormous gift attached to the story.
I certainly do not undermine Julian's feeling of missing his brother or his pending distraught of future departures. It is perfectly understandable. I, too, miss his brother very much and when his other brother and sister leave this coming fall for school, Julian and I will deeply miss them...thank goodness.
If you would like to read more about blending families go to Blendedways.
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