A Guide to: Step-Parenting and Blended Families
Monday, September 28th, 2015
?Blended? families can be a hard and long procress. Some children may resist changes, while parents can become frustrated when the new family doesn’t function like their previous family. Both the child and parent have to adjust to their new family and it is important to remember it may take time. These guidelines may help your blended family to work out succesfully living together.
Laying the foundations for a blended family
It is crucial to lay solid foundations, by taking your time, you give everyone a chance to get used to each other and used to the idea of marriage.
Too many changes at once can unsettle children. Blended families have the highest success rate if the couple waits two years or more after a divorce to remarry, instead of piling one drastic family change onto another.
- Don’t expect to fall in love with your partner?s children overnight. Get to know them. Love and affection take time to develop.
- Find ways to experience ?real life? together. Taking both sets of kids to a theme park every time you get together is a lot of fun, but it isn?t reflective of everyday life. Try to get the kids used to your partner and his or her children in daily life situations.
- Make parenting changes before you marry. Agree with your new partner how you intend to parent together, and then make any necessary adjustments to your parenting styles before you remarry. It?ll make for a smoother transition and your kids won?t become angry at your new spouse for initiating changes.
- Don?t allow ultimatums. Your kids or new partner may put you in a situation where you feel you have to choose between them. Remind them that you want both sets of people in your life.
- Insist on respect. You can?t insist people like each other but you can insist that they treat one another with respect.
- Limit your expectations. You may give a lot of time, energy, love, and affection to your new partner?s kids that will not be returned immediately. Think of it as making small investments that may one day yield a lot of interest.
Bonding with your new blended family
As a step-parent, you may want to focus on developing positive relations with your step children. By focussing on what the children need, you will increase the chances of success. Children have basic needs which should always be considered.
Children want to feel:
- Safe and secure. Children want to be able to count on parents and step-parents. Children of divorce have already felt the upset of having people they trust let them down, and may not be eager to give second chances to a new step-parent.
- Loved. Kids like to see and feel your affection, although it should be a gradual process.
- Seen and valued. Kids often feel unimportant or invisible when it comes to decision making in the new blended family. Recognize their role in the family when you make decisions.
- Heard and emotionally connected. Creating an honest and open environment free of judgment will help kids feel heard and emotionally connected to a new step-parent. Show them that you can view the situation from their perspective.
- Appreciated and encouraged. Children of all ages respond to praise and encouragement and like to feel appreciated for their contributions.
- Limits and boundaries. Children may not think they need limits, but a lack of boundaries sends a signal that the child is unworthy of the parents? time, care, and attention. As a new step-parent, you shouldn?t step in as the enforcer at first, but work with your spouse to set limits.
Dealing with differences in blended families
You can expect differences in pareting, discipline and lifestyle etc. when you merge two families together. This may become frustrating for the children therefore, make it a priortiy to have some unity. For example rules, chores, discipline and allowance. 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. This should diminish some feelings of unfairness. It is important to realise that a stepfamily is different, this can help you understand and accept some of the problems you’re likely to face.
Some common differences in blended families:
- Age differences. In blended families, there may be children with birthdays closer to one another than possible with natural siblings, or the new step-parent may be only a few years older than the eldest child.
- Parental inexperience. One step-parent may have never been a parent before, and therefore may have no experience of the different stages children go through.
- Changes in family relationships. If both parents remarry partners with existing families, it can mean children suddenly find themselves with different roles in two blended families. For example, one child may be the eldest in one stepfamily but the youngest in the other. Blending families may also mean one child loses his or her uniqueness as the only boy or girl in the family.
- Difficulty in accepting a new parent. If children have spent a long time in a one-parent family, or if children still nurture hopes of reconciling their parents, it may be difficult for them to accept a new person.
- Coping with demands of others. In blended families planning family events can get complicated, especially when there are custody considerations to take into account. Children may grow frustrated that vacations, parties, or weekend trips now require complicated arrangements to include their new stepsiblings.
- Changes in family traditions. Most families have very different ideas about how annual events such as holidays, birthdays, and family vacations should be spent. Kids may feel resentful if they?re forced to go along with someone else?s routine. Try to find some common ground or create new traditions for your blended family.
- Parental insecurities. A step-parent may be anxious about how he or she compares to a child?s natural parent, or may grow resentful if the stepchildren compare them unfavorably to the natural parent.