The first step to making your blended family a success is to realize that the blended family is not the same as the ideal nuclear family and trying to make it fit that mold can cause confusion, frustration and disappointment.
The answer is to understand the basics of what makes a successful blended family.
Without the new marriage there is no family. Develop a strong couple bond and make sure you keep working on being close to each other. Life is full of rocky roads and the stronger you are together, the better you will cope.
Plan Before You Move In Together.
To give the family the best chance of success it is valuable to start planning how your new family will function before you move in together. There is a temptation to rush in and enjoy the feelings of being loved again, especially after a divorce, but taking time to lay a solid foundation will give everyone a chance to get used to each other and get used to the idea of forming a new family.
Finish one relationship before you start another.
Blended families work best if you have dealt with some of the baggage from the previous relationships. Two or more years is recommended for the best success. Too many changes at once is unsettling for the children and does not give the adults time to grieve their losses either.
Love takes time.
No one expects you to love your new children or for them to love you instantly. It is important to show mutual respect and be civil but take it slow and get to know each other. Love and affection take time to develop. The ages of the children will change what can be expected for the relationship. Good friends, mentors, fun auntie, are all good goals for older children and teenagers.
Get to know each other in “real life.”
When you have the kids with you as you are dating, do some “normal” activities as well as some fun ones so that you both come to know each other and the children as you are in daily life.
Make parenting changes before you move in together.
Oh, how I wish couples would do this step. Before you move in and start coping with each other’s children, talk about the issues, and how you are going to manage them. If you have been spending time with the children you will have some ideas of things that annoy you, and you feel need to change. Especially if the children are similar ages, the rules need to be the same. All conversations and disagreements need to be out of earshot of the children. If something is annoying you about a child now it will be doubly worse when you are living with them. Let the parent make the changes before you move in together. This will make a smoother transition and your children will not feel upset at your new partner for the changes.
As a parent we love our children unconditionally and there could be times we feel that we have to choose between our child or our new partner. Remind them and yourself that you want both sets of people in your life.
Limit your expectations.
You may feel that you are giving everything to your stepchild, and they are not returning the affection. Reduce your expectations, it may take many years. Think of each thing you are doing as small deposits in the bank of love. One day it will yield a lot of interest.
Keep talking to your partner as differences arise.
Blending two families there can be differences in parenting, discipline, lifestyle, money, expectations of the children and so many other areas. Agreeing on consistent guidelines about rules, and then sharing this with the children together, will show the children that you are fair and standing together.
When you are in your first relationship without children, you usually spend a lot of time focusing on each other and building the couple bond. In stepfamilies it is common for parents to focus on their children rather than the relationship. Focusing on the couple relationship and making that strong will benefit everyone, including the children. If they see love, respect, and open communication they will feel more secure and settle into the new family quicker.
If you would like further support and guidelines for how to make step families work come and join the online course starting on February 14.