Blended families are becoming increasingly common, yet despite there being many more family units composed of step-siblings, parents can still struggle when attempting to bring together their family members. The term ‘blended family’ has evolved in meaning over the last few years, but to define it in the simplest form, a blended family refers to a family whereby a parent, or both parents, have children from previous relationships and are now living together as one family unit. Understandably, this process of blending two families together is not always easy. Often there are hiccups along the way, but these issues can often be managed with empathy and understanding. If you are looking for advice on blended families or indeed looking for how to make the transition to a blended family easier, this blog post will help you!
1. Remember that, although as parents you may be excited, your children and stepchildren may not feel the same way right now.
As an adult in a relationship, you will be accustomed to being around your partner, accepting their quirks, and figuring out ways to circumvent conflict between the two of you. You have had plenty of time to get to know your partner and also you’ll have years of experience in dealing with common relationship discrepancies and handling big changes. Your children, on the other hand, do not have this life experience. Big changes can become overwhelming, having to share a parent with other children is a difficult emotional concept to digest, and living with step-siblings that the children don’t know well, or potentially even like, can be a really challenging and even frightening thing for them to process.
Don’t be disappointed or upset with them if they don’t share your enthusiasm or positivity and listen to their concerns.
2. Promote open communication and mutual respect.
Parents are likely to become frustrated if the blended family they have created doesn’t function as smoothly as the family unit before did. Remember that no matter how strained things get, the key to working through the transitional period is to promote open communications between all family members, and ensure each and every person is treated with respect. Respect isn’t just something that should be between children and adults, but between every member of the family unit. Even if there are growing pains within the blended family, respect should be given to everyone who is a part of it – after all, you’re all part of one family now.
Having a family meeting where everyone is allowed to have their say and where the coming week can be organized and discussed can be beneficial. It lets everyone be heard. But if communicating is proving difficult, a second option is also family therapy, where a professional can help you work through your problems together.
3. Ensure your relationship is solid.
This may seem like such an obvious point, however, before creating a blended family, both adults need to really consider the choices ahead. Without a solid marriage or relationship, there is no family unit. During your previous relationships, you may have had additional time to adjust to your new role in each other’s lives as partners or spouses, however when forming a blended family, you’re unlikely to have that adjustment period. Your relationship will have to be strong enough to withstand frustrations and backlashes from your own children, as well as your stepchildren. You also need to ensure that both adults in the family are on the same team and have chosen to approach blended family life in the same manner to ensure consistency for the children involved.
4. There should be no more “his kid” or “her kid”. Instead, form personal relationships with your stepchildren.
Prior to blending your families, you may have referred to your partner’s children as “his kid”, or “her kid”. After making the commitment to form a new family unit, this thought process needs to stop. You are all members of the same family now, so everyone should be seen as equals. Some children will require more time to adjust to their new stepparent being present in their life and that’s okay. Try to form personal relationships with your stepchildren by dedicating your time to them without their biological parent being involved.
There also needs to be a very clear discussion between the adults before the family is blended, about parental responsibilities and how things will be handled from that point of view. This can also involve including the co-parent of the children, which can feel uncomfortable or even unnatural, as they are your new partners ex, but by working together as one team to figure out the children’s best interests, you secure the most positive future for everyone.
5. Everyone will make mistakes, but in the end, the effort you put into creating a blended family will form supportive, loving bonds that last a lifetime.
There are plenty of hurdles ahead if you’re thinking about forming a blended family, however, with enough patience and love for everyone involved, blended families can be extremely successful. There will, of course, be moments where frustrations and jealousy get the better of both the adults and children, but eventually, your blended family will start to feel more and more like a loving, compassionate, and respectful family unit.