Bringing Everyone Together
Combining two different families into one harmonious unit can be a bumpy ride. In the early stages, there may be uncertainty, animosity, jealousy and even anger from your partner’s ex as well as any children they’re bringing into the relationship.
What’s more, you have to juggle a difficult transition while maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner. However, as with any major life change, you have to learn to make the best of it and press on despite any conflicts that may arise.
While the pros hopefully outweigh the cons when blending your families, it’s likely you’ll experience a unique set of challenges and rewards.
Lay the Foundation
Even before you remarry, have a conversation with your partner about your parenting styles. What role will you each play in maintaining discipline and instilling important values?
Children need consistency in order to feel safe and loved. By putting any major changes or compromises into play before the actual family blending takes place through a marriage, you’ll make it easier on the children and yourself.
Too often, step-parents-to-be assume a much more laid back role with their partner’s children, in order to get them comfortable. However, in order to make the transition to becoming a stepparent to a stepchild, you’ll have to trade the casual nature in which you interact for a stricter parenting role.
Ease into It
Additionally, make sure you all spend time together doing normal things and not just during fun family outings. Your partner should get to know your kids and what they’re like on a day-to-day basis and vice versa.
For everyone’s sake, you need to see how they’ll all interact and what kind of family dynamic there is at the get-go. While you can’t expect everyone to get along or like each other right away, you can stress the importance of respect and honesty.
Come up with family ground rules between you and your partner to ensure everyone’s on the same page from the beginning. Most importantly, be patient with each other, especially the kids.
They may need a little more time to adjust and make sure you’re not trying to completely take the place of their biological parent.
Make Time for Bonding
As with any relationship, making a blended family work requires time and effort. Every person needs to feel like they are a part of the family.
Since most children will be slightly skeptical of a stepparent at first, especially if they’re a little older, spend time with them one on one. Even if they might not seem to like or accept you at first, don’t take it personally; divorce is never easy for children and it can be hard to adjust to having a new parent-figure in the picture.
Find out what they like and engage them in activities where you can enjoy each other’s company, while sharing thoughts and feelings. It doesn’t hurt to also let them know that you’re there for them, and that you only have their best interests at heart.
Don’t Forget Each Other
The relationship between you and your partner is perhaps the most important of all to maintain. Take time out to discuss any issues you may be encountering as you adjust to your new life together.
Marriages where there are already children in the picture require even more work, since a balance has to be struck between spending time with each other, keeping everything harmonious when you’re all together, and taking care of individual relationships. Date nights and alone time are essential to keeping the marriage and your bonds strong.
Neglecting each other in favor of the kids won’t get you anywhere except burned out and resentful. Nurture each other and your relationship so that the children will see you as a team, not chess pieces they can play against each other to get what they want.
Reassure Your Kids
Although of course you need to make time to bond with your partner and their children separately, take care to keep the relationships with your own kids steady.
Blended families are really two families within a family, so ensuring your initial family bond is strong will make your children feel safe and more accepting of the new family members.
Going back to consistency for a moment, your kids need to know you’re still their parent first and that their step-siblings don’t come before them. Easing their minds from the beginning will prevent any jealousy from escalating further and causing problems in the household.
Parents (Navigating the Challenges of Blended Families)
Help Guide (Step-Parenting and Blended Families)
The Huffington Post (9 Strategies for Making a Blended Family Blend)