Bringing together two families to form one can be a tricky experience for everyone involved. Here’s some tips on how to make it work!
First: What is a blended family/step family?
A blended family or step family is formed when you and your partner build a new life together with the children one or both of you may have from previous marriage(s) or relationship(s). The experience can be challenging, especially to children who may find it difficult to adjust to the change, but it is very rewarding in the end.
1. Focus on individual relationships.
It’s a good idea to take things slow when blending two families together. As much as you’d like to fall in love with your stepchildren overnight, don’t expect it to happen that way. Instead, set aside time to build a relationship with your stepchildren. Plan a fun activity together (maybe let the child choose) and bond over it! Remember to make time for your biological children and partner as well, so no one feels left out.
2. Make parenting decisions with your partner.
Make agreements with your new partner on how you plan to parent together before you marry/remarry. Discuss your current discipline strategies and if they’ll be changed. Most parents have their own rules and punishments and it’s unfair to the children if these change overnight.
3. Find activities that unite the stepchildren.
Find activities the whole family can do together to get everyone accustomed to one another. This can be anything from going on a holiday together or going out for a meal; or simply going grocery shopping. Give the children chance to get to know each other. This takes time, and you must tread slowly and carefully if you want the family to combine successfully; try not to force activities on children who choose not to participate. You can’t insist the children spend time together or force them to get along, but do insist that they act respectfully towards one another.
4. Try to be on good terms with your ex.
Even though your relationship/marriage with them may not have ended on good terms, it’s advised to make every every effort you can to be friendly with them for your kids. Put negative feelings aside, recognise that you have similar goals for your children, and work together when needed to achieve them.
5. Be aware of choosing favourites.
Be fair towards your biological children and stepchildren. This is a common mistake, but try not to pick favourites among your children. It often happens unintentionally, but children will notice and often withdraw themselves.
Forming a new family from two (or even three) previous families can be a stressful and challenging experience, but approach the situation correctly and everything will work out! Make time, be fair, and don’t stress too much.
If despite everything, your child is showing resentment towards your partner or their siblings or the family no longer enjoys activities that are normally fun, it may be a good idea to seek outside help from a therapist.