A photo of a blended family on a soccer field in Georgia is going viral for all the right reasons.
Over the weekend, Emilee Player posted a photo of her blended family surrounding her 4-year-old stepdaughter Maelyn on Facebook.
“Because of us, I will never believe co-parenting can’t work!” she wrote on the social media site. “I KNOW through experience it CAN WORK! Choose to do what’s best for your child and everything will just fall into place.”
The picture, with over 80,000 shares and 20,000 likes, shows both Maelyn’s parents and stepparents wearing custom made t-shirts with their familial titles.
“We always take family pictures like that every holiday,” Maelyn’s mother, Clara Cazeau told WSB-TV Atlanta. She had the t-shirts made for the family.
Player decided to post the photo of them on the soccer field to social media, but she had no idea it would resonate so much with the public.
“We had no idea it would go that far,” she said.
According to Cazeau, the biological parents share custody and have been co-parenting their daughter for three years.
And although Maelyn may not fully comprehend the magnitude of her family’s viral photo, Player told the broadcaster she still understands what it means to be accepting of others.
“She’s very sweet, very loving,” Player said. “She’s not standoffish, she’s accepting of everybody. And I think that’s because she’s been taught to accept everybody by the people who love her.”
The Internet applauds this family
Social media users quickly reacted with thoughtful messages and similar stories about living in a blended family.
“This is how we do it and our kids are so much better for it! I dealt with the pain my parents caused us with their horrible fighting. We are friends. We have meals together, hang out together on weekends, we are a team! We were awful to each other when we were together, but now that it’s about the kids, we get along great and the kids get to see what real teamwork and support feels and looks like. Bravo to you guys for getting it right!,” user Maya Ono wrote.
Others mentioned while this situation is ideal, it is also quite rare.
“Sad truth is that this is an ideal situation and rare; and this is awesome. But some people in the relationship make it impossible to get this. Telling others it can work for them because it worked for you isn’t wise to say. Just be happy that it worked out and just say that. Everyone is not under the same conditions,” Preston Pierott commented.
While the photo also received criticism from Facebook users who argued the parents never should have divorced, many were quick to jump on the critics.
READ MORE: Attachment parenting experts weigh in
How to make a blended family work
Co-parenting (also known as joint-parenting or shared parenting) works well when people are committed to creating a dialogue with their exes, psychologist Deborah Serani wrote in Psychology Today.
In addition to being open with your former partner, Serani says it’s important to commit to talking positively around your child or children in the household, to set-up rules that are consistent in both households (meal times, bed time, etc.), and to “be boring.”
“Research shows that children need time to do ordinary things with their less-seen parent, not just fun things,” she wrote.
For her don’ts, Serani says don’t burden your child, give into guilt or condemn your ex.
The upside of co-parenting
According to Statistics Canada, the 2011 census survey found 12.6 per cent of all Canadian families were step families.
Other research has shown teens who lived with a single, divorced parent who received little support from their other parent, were more likely to have internalizing symptoms like depression and low self-esteem, the American Psychological Association notes.
The 2002 study, which was published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, also found having a grounded school system was beneficial in the long run.