A blended or a step-family that is two parents marrying each other each with children from a previous marriage isn’t easy, especially in the beginning. Understand that it takes time for a blended family to come together and working selflessly with patience, compassion, love and understanding will see that you all get through it, and that it does in time come together. Everyone’s life has been changed radically and everyone in the family, especially the children, have to find out where they stand, who they are and what role they will play. There are children who can be resistant to change. Parents can be frustrated that the new unit doesn’t mesh or jive like the old family used to. Of course everyone in the family will go through a period of adjustment and there will be growing pains. Still there are some things you can do to make sure that it’s as successful a transition as possible. Here is a guide to help you with your blended family or step-family situation. First, you have to lay the foundation. To do that, you need to slow down. After a painful divorce it can feel reinvigorating to have found love again. The tendency is to rush off and get married and put these two families together. But the truth is all parties should slow down and get to know one another first so that the process of blending isn’t so jarring to the two of you but particularly for the children. Children can become unsettled when experiencing too many changes at one time. Those blended families that wait two or more years after divorce to remarry are statistically the ones that have a better chance at staying together.
Some people expect to be a doting step-parent overnight. In fact, it takes time to build up a relationship with a child. Don’t push it or stress it. Instead, let it unfold naturally and be confident that it will happen in time. Taking the children on an outing say a picnic or a ball game is great. But start getting them used to everyday situations. Have dinner together on a meal cooked at home, watch a movie together or have a family game night. Before you marry talk in depth about your parenting style. Decide together how things are going to go such as bedtimes, homework, chores and more. Whatever changes are to be made should be initiated by the birth parent before remarrying, otherwise your children will resent the step-parent for bringing in these changes. However, if you merely say that you and your partner were discussing parenting styles and he or she mentioned something that you liked and wanted to put into effect, the resentment will be dulled if not nullified. Don’t let your new spouse nor your children put you in a place where you have to choose between them. That is an unfair position to be in and anyone who really loves you should understand that it’s unfair. Let them know that both people or sets of people are pivotal in your life.
Remember that they may not like each other in the beginning, and you can’t force like. But one thing you must expect is respect. Your children much respect your partner and vice versa. Everyone should expect and receive respect. Make sure the marriage is and stays solid. The marriage is the core of the family and without it this family can’t exist. Don’t let anything threaten it and keep it strong. Expect everyone to be civil. They may not have to like all of their new brothers and sisters but they must learn how to get along. The people in this new blended family all have different needs and are at different stages in life. We all have to honor each other’s differences and accommodate for them. They may even be at different stages of accepting the family. That is okay too. Allow them their choice and they’ll come to warm to the idea on their own, in time. Make sure all the children feel safe, secure, loved, seen, heard, valued and emotionally connected to you. Set boundaries and limits. Make sure everyone knows what the consequences are and stick to them. If you are the step-parent, in the beginning allow your new spouse to deal with the situation but be there for support and advisement. For more, read Stepcoupling: Creating and Sustaining a Strong Marriage in Today’s Blended Family by Susan Wisdom LPC, and Jennifer Green.