Tips for Blended Families
Even the best of relationships require effort, compromise and understanding of each other’s needs but when taking two single-parent families and households and combining them into a single two-parent family unit has some unique challenges. It is not something that can magically happen overnight and in fact may take years for everyone to find the new arrangement comfortable.
The first few years can be stressful and challenging as the two adults learn to live as a couple and begin to parent as a team. While parenting is something they are both already familiar with their styles of parenting may differ, requiring them to make adjustments so they can be on the same page. Learning to love and nurture a partner’s children can be challenging, and being accepted as another authority figure takes time.
There are so many different relationship dynamics going on at once that it often can feel overwhelming.
If a person has concerns about how best to blend their family with that of another and all the challenges that a stepparent is going to face the following tips will provide some assistance to help prepare for what lays ahead.
- Individual Relationships
While it is quite normal for a couple to want everyone in their newly blended family to be happy and get along well it is unlikely to happen. One of the ways to smooth the transition into step-parenthood is to get to know the step-children on an individual basis. Having some one-on-one time with each child will give both the stepparent and the step-child the opportunity to get to know each other better and hopefully come to accept the new relationship. Where possible this should be done away from the rest of the family to reduce pressure on either party.
Setting aside anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour each week for each step-child will provide the child with a specific time that they know they can do whatever they want (within reason of course) with the stepparent. This is a time to avoid any constructive criticism, teaching or instructing the child. Let it be a time to get to know the child and appreciate and respect their individuality.
During this special time the step-parent should try to find some common interests with the step-child so that they can get to know one another in a relaxed and enjoyable environment. This time will help a bond form and be nurtured into a loving, strong relationship.
Once the decision has been made to blend the two families there can be some rough times ahead, even before the day it all becomes finalized. This time is a cause of a lot of emotional upheaval as well as physical as children come to terms with the impending changes. Emotions may run high at times and as the soon-to-be step-parent it is important that you recognize and acknowledge children’s feelings and upsets. When a child cries the stepparent should grab the opportunity to ‘be there’ and be supportive and understanding of all the emotions they are experiencing. The step-parent should listen attentively and help the child in any way they can.
The step-parent’s own children will go through the same challenges and therefore need to be given some support and understanding as they come to terms with coming and going from one household to another. It is important that parents take time before and after a household change has happened to allow for emotions to run high, and be particularly supportive and understanding at these times.
Being able to laugh and play as a family can help the blending process go a little more smoothly. Laughter is good for everyone and when two or more people can laugh at the same joke or funny movie it creates a sense of camaraderie as well as allowing tensions and stresses to become reduced. Have movie nights on Friday nights and choose comedies so everyone can laugh at the same parts and bond.
Playing together is another way for a newly blended family to build their relationships between stepchildren and between parents and stepchildren. Make it a fun outing where everyone can join in and have fun. Make a list of different activities that can be done on a weekend and let one person each week choose the outing for the next scheduled family fun day.