Planing or Building a Blended Family
You and your partner have decided to make a life together and form a new blended family that includes children from one or both of your previous relationships. Congratulations. What lies ahead can be both a rewarding and challenging experience. It can take a long time for a blended family to begin to feel comfortable and function well together. While you as parents are likely to approach remarriage and a new blended family with great joy and expectation, your kids or your new spouses’s kids, may not be nearly as excited. They will likely feel uncertain about the upcoming changes and how they will affect relationships with their natural parents. They will also be worried about living with new step siblings, whom they may not know well or worse, ones they may not even like.
To give yourself the best chance of success, it’s important to start planning how a blended family will function after the marriage takes place. Contrary to myth, step families actually have a high success rate rate 80% of the kids and families come out just fine.
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- Pray for you and your spouse and your new blended family. The family that prays together stays together.
- A solid marriage – Emphases on building a rock solid union from which love flows. This will ultimately benefit everyone including the children. If the children see love respect and open communication between you and your spouse they will feel more secure and may even learn to model those qualities. Set aside time as a couple by making regular dates. Present a unified front and approach to the children. Arguing or disagreeing in front of them may encourage them to try and come between you. Go for a walk and air your grievances with one another. But when the kids are watching you are one. Stick together.
- All relationships are respectful – This is not just referring to the kids behavior toward adults. Respect should be given not just based on age, but rather based on the fact that you are all family members now. Insist on respect, you can’t insist that people like each other, but you can insist on respect.
- Decide before marriage how you and your spouse will handle the disciplining of this new merger. As you merge two families together, differences in parenting, discipline, lifestyle, may become more pronounced and can become a source of frustration for the children. Agreeing on some consistent guidelines and strategies will show the kids that you and your spouse intend to deal with issues in a similar way.
- If there is difficulty in accepting a new parent – Let the child set the pace. Every child is different and will show you how slow or how fast to go as you get to know them. Some kids may be more open and willing to engage. Shy introverted children may require you to slow down and give them more time to warm up to you. Given enough time, patience and interest most children will eventually give you a chance.
- Don’t expect an instant relationship on either side with your kids toward your new partner or with your spouses kids with you. While you can not expect instant attachment or love, you can expect to be treated respectfully. Limit your expectations. You may give a lot of time, energy and love and affection to your new partner’s kids that may not be returned immediately. Think of it as making small investments that may one day yield a lot of interest.
- Beware of favoritism – Be fair, don’t overcompensate by favoring your stepchildren, this is a common mistake made with the best of intentions an attempt to avoid indulging your biological children.
- Communicate often and openly – when communication is clear honest and often there are fewer opportunities for misunderstandings and more possibilities for connection.
- Limits and boundaries – as a new step parent you shouldn’t step in as the enforcer at first but work with your spouse to set limits. Let them get to know you as a friend, counselor and mentor, but also as an adult and one of the authority figures in the household.
- Room for growth – After a few years of being blended, hopefully the family will grow and members will choose to spend more time together, and feel close to one another.
When to seek help for your blended family
If despite all your best efforts, your new spouse and or children are not getting along, it might be time to seek outside help from a family therapist specializing in blended families. Never be ashamed to reach out and ask for help. Always remember Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me.”