Maybe your first relationship ended in heartache or divorce, or maybe a tragedy or illness took your first love leaving you alone with your children. No matter the circumstance your heart opened up once again to fully love someone else and the two of you decide to get married. However this time the holy union includes children. When two people make a commitment to do life together and one or both come with children from a previous relationship it is called a blended family.
A blended family can offer experiences that are both rewarding and challenging. Joining two separate families together as one can bring about a sense of uncertainty whether as a stepparent or as a stepchild. Any family can have its challenges when seeking to have harmonious relationships with one another but blending families together tends to have its own particular struggles and triumphs. It can take years for a blended family to become fully comfortable with one another. Not only are the new couple getting to know each other better but relationships with biological and stepchildren can add its own complexity to the mix. This can cause stress, worry and frustration that may leave you questioning whether or not you can build a healthy blended family.
Blending a family is no easy feat and will come with its own set of growing pains but no matter how difficult it may seem, with open communication, mutual respect, lots of love and patience obstacles can be overcome and a bond can form. So, you may want to buckle up and get ready for a journey that will absolutely have ups and downs but as long as you don’t lose focus and give up it will be worth it. Here are some tips to help either prepare or guide you through the journey of blending families.
- Nurture Individual relationships and Commit
No matter if the new parent has kids or not, having someone new enter the household can cause disruption to the original family structure. Even if the new member(s) to the family are awesome there is still an adjustment period because kids will still be loyal to their biological parents. So, instead of expecting one big happy family right away, take things slow and build relationships from the ground up individually. Stepparents and stepchildren need to have time alone together to truly get to know them and hear their heart. It’s important that the stepparent appreciates, values and respects who their stepchildren are and what they like. The best way to do this is by having one on one time without instructing, teaching, or critiquing. Allow the child to do with you what they would like and discuss whatever is on their heart; follow their lead.
A stepparent should make it a priority to set aside a few minutes at a time, adding up to at least an hour each week, of special time with their stepchildren. This time together offers an opportunity for the stepparent and stepchildren to find common interests and create a relaxed and safe space to shine who they really are. Getting to know each individual on a more personal level can help build a foundation of a strong and loving relationship. Parenting roles and relations will be tested but if the true commitment has been established then it will be easier to see that this too will pass.
- Support children during transitions
A blended family coming together is full of transitions, from new people moving in to possibly the back and forth days between biological parents. This can be tough for children and big feelings may erupt leading to big reactions. Small incidents may push the child over the edge, or they may try to test you and push your limits by talking back and showing disrespect. There maybe tears as the child longs to go back to the other parent’s home. As emotions erupt it’s important to support the child by recognizing transitions are hard and by offering eye contact and a listening ear. Allow the child to cry or share their feelings, instead of them burying emotions away. Make room for big feelings, especially during transition times, and be willing to give the child extra attention.
- Laugh and make memories together
Blended families have a separate past and memories without their new family members and if reminiscing occurs it can make those who weren’t apart feel left out and like outsiders. No one wants to feel like they don’t belong in their family because they don’t share history, so it’s important to be intentional in making new memories. Having common memories will build the family unit and when past memories arise create a space that allows all members of the family to relive an older moment. As hard as it may be to hear stories you weren’t apart of it is still important to acknowledge that everyone has a past filled with different experiences.
One of the best ways to not only build memories but also a sense of closeness with less tension is laughter. Laugh together, play together, be willing to be goofy, and then trust will follow.
- Be respectful of other parents
One of the greatest ways to create a successful blended family is to recognize there is more to the family than the newlyweds and kids, the ex. Often times the ex of either one or both partners will be apart of the picture as children go back and forth. This simple fact may raise some tension in the new spouse, especially if hurt and pain was previously involved, causing irritation and frustration. However the best thing a stepparent can do is honor and support the rights of the biological parent. When frustrating moments arise keep any negative comments or tension away from the children. No matter how much conflict a child has witnessed all children desire their parents to be respected. A child should never be in the middle of conflict between parents. The hearts desire of a child is for their parents to get along and to feel loved by both. A relationship between stepparents and stepchild can build on a strong foundation when the biological parent is shown respect.
- Build a strong martial bond
When a couple gets remarried without children they can take the time to build on their relationship, get to know each other and create a strong marital bond. However when newly remarried couples enter a marriage with children couples can become more consumed with the wellbeing of their children rather than each other. When a couple focuses on strengthening their marriage the benefits not only affect the couple but also the children. When children see love, respect, and open communication between parent and stepparent there is a greater sense of security. Enjoy your marriage, have regular dates and some alone time. Have a unified parenting approach, when children see arguing or disagreeing they may feel more inclined to come between the two of you.
No matter how difficult things get remember God brought your families together for a purpose. You are secure in His love and if He is for you, who can be against you? Don’t stray away from His wisdom and guidance because with Him all things are possible.