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Your first marriage didn’t work. As you enter a second marriage, you pray it turns out better. Not just for your sake, but for the benefit of your kids as well.
Blended families are more challenging to unite than biological ones. Trust me, I know by experience! Like me, you began with a vision of your blended family only to discover not everyone is on board. Getting members of broken families to trust and respect a step family is not an easy task.
If you are frustrated, confused, or have emotional bruises being a stepparent you are not alone. Blended families take time and patience to develop.
Whether you are starting out or been going at it for some time, here are 5 essential ingredients to add to develop a healthy blended family.
Gradually introduce members of the blended family
Readiness is a key factor in starting a blended family. If you jump into a relationship right after divorce, this may be too much for your kids. Your kids need time to recover from their parents divorce. Maybe you do too!
Before you introduce kids to a prospective married partner, make sure this relationship has matured. Talk to them about your partner before you make formal introductions.
Do not force-feed your relationship upon the children. Remember, kids prefer the bio-family. A blended family is more of an acquired taste.
Plan a series of activities the kids can enjoy. Allow time for bonding to occur before you discuss establishing a blended home.
Develop mutually understood expectations about the role of the stepparent
Once you begin establishing a bond with kids, you can get a better assessment of how they are attaching to the stepparent and step siblings. Talk with your mate about each child: age, temperament, attachment style, maturity level, how they cope, personal interests, etc… Be sure to include information about the strength of bond the child has with the biological parent.
As stepparent, you can find a range of adult leadership that fits for each child and establish expectations about your role accordingly.
Establish a family forum for communication
When you decide to marry and blend families, plan a time to talk to the kids about it. Share your expectations about how the blended family will work. Listen and respond to their concerns.
Establish a forum to talk about the transition. Discuss geographical layout–bedrooms, bathrooms, etc… Ask questions and get input from the kids about the transition. You want their buy in and this is more likely achieved if they have a voice and you exhibit some flexibility.
Show class by not bashing the kids’ other family
Step kids live on two planets, not one. Keep this in mind at all times. The last thing they need to hear is your sentiments toward the ex-spouse. Show respect. If kids complain about differences in rules, validate their confusion and/or anger, then clarify how things run in your home.
Be consistent in love and limits
There is a temptation to lean to one side over the other. Some bio-parents feel guilty and may compensate by showing love without enforcing limits. Stepparents correct this problem by being overly strict. However, this alienates stepchildren.
Creating a safe, predictable, loving and fun environment with limits provides a healthy environment where kids can flourish.
Now it’s your turn
If you parent within a blended family, what are some things you do that make it work well? Feel free to leave a comment below or on one of my social media sites.
If you are struggling in getting your blended family to mix well, what one of the 5 ingredients will you add?