Often times when two people come together in marriage, it is not just two people coming together. It is estimated that approximately 1/3 of all weddings in America involve step families. While life as newlyweds has it’s own challenges, the challenges often times intensify when it comes to blended families. When it comes to having a harmonious home life for your blended family, communication and preventative measures are extremely helpful. Here are just a few tips to help your family come together and to be on one accord.
1. Discuss expectations before saying ‘I do’. Being realistic about your expectations and about possible scenarios that may arise once everyone is living together enables you to be prepared with a response to conflict that is not emotionally charged. You and your fiance should see eye to eye on how children will be disciplined, shown affection, and included in activities. Do the children have past emotional father or mother wounds that may inhibit their ability to bond with their step-mom or dad? Discuss with your soon to be spouse the source of the child’s pain, so that they do not take it personally, or feel bad about a child not wanting to respect or bond with them right away.
2. Ease into new roles. If a person with children marries someone who has never had children, the biological parent should not overload the step-parent with heavy responsibilities all at once. Ask your spouse if they are feeling overwhelmed, and be ready to listen! Work together to find a solution and remember that new responsibilities can be added at a later time. The kids will not like sudden role changes either - it will strain the relationship between the new parent and the children.
3. Make time for everyone. When two people who both have children from previous relationships come together in marriage,
they have a tendency to have a stronger drive to make things work. The challenge often times in this scenario is that the children begin to resent the fact that they are having to share mom or dad with their step brothers or sisters. One way to make this transition easier is to set up special times where each child gets individual attention. Another wise move is to communicate with your children. Let them know that they can come to you with their feelings and that you will not be angry with them. Do not dismiss their feelings as being unimportant, or invalid. Try to explain the situation to them and let them know that they are still just as important to you now as they have ever been. It is also important that all of the children in the house are given the same amount of affection and praise. Trying to win over a step child by offering them special privileges or praise can cause strife between them and other children in the home, and can cause children to feel like they are being replaced.
4. Realize that everything is not about you. The most successful families are those whose members are always looking out for each other. If a family of four is always looking out for one another, then three people are looking out for one person no matter how you split it, but if it is every man for himself then every man will end up fighting with three people. The root of many relationship issues is selfishness. Try to keep other people’s feelings in mind. If everyone in the family is doing this, then unity among the family will automatically grow, and discord will stay at a minimum. Granted, this takes some self-reflection and intentional efforts on the parts of the parents especially. Remember that children will reflect their parent's behavior, so as parents it is important that you display selflessness when dealing with one another, and with the children.
What solutions have you found to be helpful in your blended family? We want to hear - leave a comment below!