A certain amount of upheaval is inevitable when parents remarry. Children must adjust to new households and new family members — perhaps even new siblings. The process of transitioning into a blended family requires a great deal of patience, but it needn’t be traumatic. Read on to find out how parents can ease that transition and create a healthy, happy blended family in North Carolina.
How to Raise a Blended Family
The best time to make a plan for a blended family is before the marriage even takes place. If you don’t think about your plan prior to the wedding, you may be in for a rough landing once everyone is under the same roof. A crisis is never the best time to address underlying issues in your new blended family.
If you lay solid foundations for integrating your new relationship into your family life, it will be much easier to make positive progress. With your partner, decide what your blended parenting style will look like. It’s almost certain to be a little different from the parenting style you had in your former marriage, because every family dynamic is different.
No matter what, remember that kids want to feel safe and secure in a new family setting, and they’ll want to have their voices heard. Figure out where the limits and boundaries will lie, and how you and your partner intend to meet your children’s specific needs. Be firm and united in those boundaries once you’ve agreed on them. There’s no point making a plan if one parent isn’t going to stick to it.
Impatient though you may be, the key to blending a family is time, and lots of it. It’s unrealistic to expect your partner’s children to accept you immediately, or vice versa. It may even take a long period of time for you to love your partner’s children. Family bonds run very deep, and there’s no such thing as a quick fix. Even more time may be required if the remarriage is following the death of a biological parent.
Whatever the case may be, if you or the children are having a hard time adjusting, don’t beat yourself up over it. The fact that there may be friction between you and your partner’s children in no way means you’re a bad person — it just means that more time and effort are needed. Ground these new relationships in respect and compassion, and the rest is sure to follow.
Tips to Smoothly Blend Your Family
Though every blended family is different, step-parents and children tend to run up against some of the same challenges – building trust, communicating effectively, setting strong boundaries and growing to love new family members. Here are some specific tips for building a successful blended family:
- Foster individual relationships within the family. Set aside time to spend one-on-one with your partner’s children, and let your partner do the same. If you ease into this habit, you can get to know the children much better, and slowly build a trusting relationship with them. Allow the children to set the pace of your new relationship.
- Let the biological parent have the final word, at least at first. It’s natural to want to jump in when you see rule-breaking under your roof, but it takes some time to earn authority with your partner’s children. Certainly, enforce your own boundaries and back your partner up, but let the biological parent handle being the “bad cop.”
- Don’t compete with your partner’s ex. It may be tempting, especially if you feel that this person has done a lot of damage. However, you do yourself and your blended family no favors by trying to outdo the children’s biological mother or father. In fact, it can actually create further conflict. It’s much better to focus on your own relationship with the kids, rather than their relationship with the ex.
- Act lovingly even if you don’t feel it (yet). Many children are defiant and difficult when a parent remarries, and that’s normal. It may mean that you don’t even feel that you like your partner’s children, let alone love them. Nonetheless, you should act in a loving way and treat them with compassion, until your affection and love become genuine.
- Set aside time for your marriage. It’s easy to get consumed with the logistics and challenges of a blended family, but don’t forget that your marriage is at the core of that new family. Working on the strength of your marital bond will actually benefit everyone, as you will be happier, calmer and better able to present a more unified approach in parenting.
- Acknowledge the challenges. It should come as no surprise that being part of a blended family is a mountain to climb. Don’t push difficulties under the rug. As you encounter them, address them in a specific, action-oriented way. When you face these challenges head-on, you’re more likely to be able to meet them with love and humor.
- HelpGuide: Step-Parenting and Blended Families
- Empowering Parents: Blended Family? The 5 Secrets of Effective Stepparenting
- Dr. Phil: 5 Tips to Achieve Harmony in Your Blended Family