Due to the number of divorced families, it has been increasingly common to have blended families. Many couples enter into new relationships and new marriages wherein both parties already have children. When these families come together, there are many changes and adjustments that need to be considered and planned.
Parenting is already a tough job – raising kids and navigating the challenges that arise along the way is important. And with blended families, the challenges add up. Parents will need to introduce their kids to a new mother or father figure and new brothers and sisters. Then the new couple will need to successfully merge both families to become one happy family.
Merging two families can be complicated, given that they don’t have the same background and the same family dynamic. Fortunately, a parent can take steps to improve the bond between both sides of the family and bring everyone together.
What is a Blended Family?
A blended family, also known as a stepfamily, forms when you and your partner decide to live together with the children from one or both of your previous relationships. The process of forming a blended family can be a challenging yet rewarding experience. While you as a couple are likely to approach remarriage and having a new family with great joy, your children or your partner’s children may not be as excited. Some may resist the changes, and some may even resist you. While it may frustrate you, know that blending families is rarely easy. No matter how difficult things may seem at first, giving love and patience, maintaining open communication, and mutual respect can help you develop a bond with your stepchildren and let them form a bond with your children.
Ways for Blended Families to Bond
Here are some tips on how to ensure that your transition into a blended family can be successful.
1. Resolve your divorce or previous relationship first
How you manage your divorce or break-up with your ex can play a significant role in the success of your future relationships. You have to deal with them first before entering a new relationship – especially one with kids involved – as bringing unresolved issues and emotions can add to the challenge. It also opens the risk of future issues getting more complicated.
2. Create a parenting plan and adjust even before remarrying
You and your partner must discuss and agree about parenting topics like discipline, behavior, rules, parenting roles, and handling children. The rules must be consistent in the house, and expectations and consequences must be clear. Make the necessary adjustments to your parenting styles before you remarry to make a smoother transition.
It’s also best to talk to your own children first and let them know of your plans too, early on. Don’t spring it on them and surprise them by letting them dive into a new situation right away – they may resent you and your new partner for it. Make sure they have a voice and entertain any of their concerns. Help your partner do the same with their kids.
3. Lead by example
As a basic rule in parenting, leading by example becomes even more important when it comes to bonding blended families. For your new stepchildren to love and respect you, you must demonstrate love and respect first. Know that these kids, as well as your biological children, are watching you and looking for cues. You can successfully help them feel loved and respected by listening to them, spending one-on-one time with them, letting them set the pace, showing them affection, and giving them proper boundaries.
4. Manage your expectations
Another essential thing to consider when blending families is understanding that everything won’t be perfect – not at the beginning and probably never, honestly. It’s because families are never perfect. Even if you have a harmonious and close relationship with your kids, and your partner has the same with theirs, blending the families can still get challenging. And if you don’t really have a quality relationship with your own kids, it might start off a little rockier.
Don’t expect the family interactions to be perfect from the start. Don’t get discouraged if there’s any animosity initially, because if children see their parents getting frustrated, they will pick up the same attitude about the situation. As a parent, be the light of hope that the blended family can be harmonious.
You might invest a lot of love, time, energy, and affection to your new partner’s kids, and they might not return the same feelings immediately. Remember that children adjust in their own way at their own time. Just think of it as making small investments that may lead to a lot of interest in the future.
5. Continue maintaining a relationship with your own children
As you build a relationship with your partner’s children, do not forget your own kids. When you take extra effort reaching out to your stepchildren, it can be easy to take your own children for granted. You need to pay equal attention to your own children so they won’t feel displaced during this time of change. Try to spend quiet time with your biological children daily. Even in the most harmonious blended families, children still crave some alone time with their parents.
6. Be fair and beware of favoritism
As you work hard to have a good relationship with your stepchildren, don’t overcompensate it by favoring them over your children. Though it’s done with the best intentions in mind, it’s a common mistake parents make in an attempt to avoid indulging your biological children. Be fair, and as much as possible, try to treat them equally.
7. Create new family rituals to bond
Creating family rituals and routines can help you unite the new family as a whole. Plan to incorporate at least one new family ritual, like Sunday ball games, weekly movie night, Taco Tuesdays, or special ways to celebrate birthdays. Establishing regular family meals can help provide a chance for you to talk and bond with both your children and stepchildren. If you need ideas for family bonding activities, check this out.
8. Find ways to experience real-life together
Going to the park, mall, or beach together is a lot of fun, but it doesn’t reflect the realities of everyday life. Try to get your kids used to your partner and their children in daily, real-life situations. For instance, if your partner needs to paint the fence, encourage your kids to help. If you need a hand with cooking, try to ask for help from your stepchild.
9. Let your stepchildren set the pace
Every child is different. Some will love you right away, while some may still keep distance. Don’t worry – if you’re doing the best that you can, the problem is not on you. Some kids are more open and willing to engage, while some may need you to slow down and give them more time to warm up to you. It depends on the personality of the child. Given enough time, interest, effort, and patience, most children will give you a chance.
10. Get professional support if needed
Finally, if you believe you can benefit from a little extra help, consider working with a therapist or counselor. These professionals can assist the whole family in sharing how they feel about changes and adjustments. Counseling is beneficial for blended families, as it gives all parties a chance to speak what they really feel and think.
Also, children need time to grieve the loss of a parent or move on from a divorce. If they are still processing this, they need more time to prepare for a new family dynamic. Counseling can help them as it allows them to go through a proper grieving process before they fully accept a new family their parent is building with other people. When a child is forced to move on before grieving, they can end up resenting the stepparent and stepchildren, or worse, their own parent. Working with a counselor can help children process these transitions both individually and as a family.
11. Do not Overstep Your Boundaries
You want to be careful not to intrude on the turf of the other parent of your stepchildren if that time comes. You will want to maintain a friendly connection with your spouse’s ex-partner since you will all need to work together to help your children feel at ease.
And always be as upbeat as you can when fostering a relationship with your stepchildren. Positive thinking makes other people feel good about your energy and improves the functioning of all the connections.
It is important not to have unrealistic expectations. Be reasonable and do not have unrealistic expectations for your new connection (especially right away).
When developing your connection and creating plans, take the children’s lead. They will feel in charge of the situation in this manner, making them less inclined to strike out at you for taking charge.
12. Make Sure You and Your Partner Are on the Same Page
Additionally, you should talk about expectations with your spouse and the other parent of your stepchildren. Likewise, you do not want to unintentionally stray beyond their bounds. As a second set of parents, find out what they think of your connection with their kids and what they anticipate from you.
Obviously, depending on the age of the stepchildren, your strategy will need to change. Make careful to integrate these considerations into your estimate since you will need to approach children of different ages differently, such as infants and toddlers, preschoolers, school-age children, and teenagers.
13. Do not Push Too Hard
Despite the fact that it can go against your inclination, it is important to avoid putting your new stepchildren in awkward circumstances.
Additionally, avoid forcing yourself to feel things you do not. It is possible that you will not feel a connection to your stepchildren when you first meet them. To feel affection and gratitude for children you are not connected to, it takes time. Take it easy and go slowly. Try not to worry too much.
Make sure your stepchildren get a lot of one-on-one time with their biological or primary parent as well.
Your stepchildren will need to feel safe in their relationship with the parent they previously knew, even while it is vital to forge your own relationships and to spend time together as a large, blended family.
You do not want the children to feel as though you are occupying or infringing on their space.
Make yourself unavailable for a bit while your partner arranges one-on-one time with the kids. Later, you may begin spending time alone with them, but it is crucial to move slowly and steadily.
14. Be Transparent
When speaking with your new stepchildren, try to be as honest and open as you can. Do not be afraid to ask challenging questions or to tell the truth, especially if the youngsters are older.
Be forthright about any worries you may have and discuss your connection with them. It is crucial to have as much agreement as you can with them.
Additionally, you must be sincere with your relationship. Inform them of any fears you may have regarding your interactions with them or their children, as well as any worries or ideas you may have.
Make careful to let your spouse know if you have any unfavorable or favorable encounters with one of the kids or find yourself in an unclear circumstance. They are your spouse for a reason, and as the children’s primary parent, it is crucial that they are informed of any issues.
To maintain a stable atmosphere for all of the children in your life, you must ensure that you and your partner are on the same page.
15. Make Your Family Cohesive
Make every effort to ensure that everyone’s relationships are harmonious if you have your own children or other loved ones who are significant in your life.
Depending on the terms of the custody arrangement with your partner’s ex-partner. If you have shared custody, if one parent has complete custody, it will be a different problem.
16. Co-Parent Successfully
Although it is sometimes difficult, it is crucial to establish and keep a positive co-parenting relationship. Your stepchildren will feel more secure in the relationship as a result, and everyone will experience the situation as a true blended family.
And never, ever criticize the other parent of your stepchildren in front of them. That will only lead to animosity and negative feelings between you and the other parent and the kids. Maintain a cheerful attitude and refrain from speaking if you have nothing kind to say.
17. Consider Your Children
The issue might become much more challenging if you include your own kids in your new mixed household. But if you use the appropriate resources and put in the correct amount of work, your blended family will come together quickly.
However, it is also crucial to maintain balance all around. From the beginning, treat your biological children and your stepchildren equally. the same infractions would result in the same penalties, privileges, curfews, and bedtimes.
You do not want to incite them to harbor animosity against you, your spouse, or each other. So, to avoid any issues, make sure you treat every youngster fairly.
That implies that you ought to treat your stepchildren with the same respect as your own children. Participate in their extracurricular activities and other significant life events. Give them assistance when they need it and assist them with their assignments.
They will perceive your respect for them and your bond as equal to that of your biological children if you do this.
18. Have Confidence
It is crucial that you have strong feelings about the strategy you’re using, no matter what. If you believe there is a problem, you should inquire more and carefully consider what the problem is.
Keep your composure and don’t give up when you’re in the right. Your stepchildren are more likely to accept your viewpoint if they see you to be adamant about your opinions.
19. Be Respectful of Your Stepchildren
Most children become disruptive and outright disrespectful at a certain age. The same will apply to your stepchildren. But that does not negate the necessity for you to show respect. You must lead by example for your stepchildren to witness your conduct and understand what is required of them.
That will make it simpler for you to provide them with instances of how you have reinforced them positively and negatively in your relationship, and it will also make it easier for them to know how to connect with you effectively. Your regard for your stepchildren will eventually be returned to you.
Avoid passing judgment on others as well. You will not always be aware of the complete context of an event, and you won’t always be aware of what was on in your stepchildren’s life before your involvement.
So, always remember to have an open mind and show respect when responding to their wants and remarks.
20. Ask for Help
You occasionally simply need a break and a chance to let off some steam. Call a close friend to share any worries, hurts, or other emotions you may be experiencing. Therapy or counseling may also be a really helpful tool.
If everyone in your family is struggling, you might want to consider family counseling. Therapy may be a terrific tool to get you all on the same page and to help you feel more confident in your relationships if your spouse and the other parent of your stepchildren are receptive to it.
There is no shame in asking for assistance if you need it since rearranging your nuclear family to include your biological parents and stepsiblings might be challenging.