Some might say it is a brave couple who chooses to blend their two single parent families into one hopefully, happy home.
Yet, lots of couples have done it and are absolutely loving their new family life.
It takes energy and effort. It may involve the odd the meltdown. But these are all challenges that can be overcome if you, your partner and your kids are all prepared to work at it.
Here are some troubleshooting tips for blended families which may help you foresee and solve some issues before they hit home.
1. Understand that making it work is challenging
Blended families often have their work cut out for them, but it does not mean that you can’t achieve a happy, loving home for everyone. It’s important to understand that it will take time and work to figure out how to get everyone to get along and eventually, become one family unit.
Not all families will be successful in blending together, however. Sometimes, one partner is unwilling to be involved with the other’s children or vice versa. Once you acknowledge the challenge and manage your expectations, you can come up with a game plan and execute it.
2. Set some ground rules
There are so many things to consider when families come together under one roof. This includes but is not limited to:
- Long-term goals
- Parenting roles
- Extended families
It’s good to allow a few months for children to adjust before laying down lots of rules and age-appropriate chores. In time, start by focusing on rules about safety and respect, and keep them positive with do’s instead of don’ts.
Try to keep the rules consistent between families. Talk to your partner before changing rules, and have a conversation with your children about keeping rules fair. Encourage them to provide options.
3. Keep your new partner in the loop
Tension can flare up between co-parents in blended families. Because let’s face it, it’s not always easy to get everyone on the same page when it comes to raising kids. According to experts, rules should fit the new family unit.
This means limiting your ex’s influence when it comes to parenting and setting new rules for your own household with your new partner. This establishes trust and makes sure everyone is included.
According to RaisingChildren.net.au:
“Parenting teamwork is about working together and agreeing on your approach to parenting. This means agreeing on general rules about respectful communication, bedtimes, eating and so on. But setting rules and behaviour expectations and consequences isn’t always easy. So teamwork is also about backing each other up, so that your child doesn’t play one of you off against the other.”
4. Compromise when needed
Do your kids have trouble with different parenting styles? It’s normal for kids to be more receptive to discipline from their own parents than stepparents. With that said, compromise is key to building a successful blended family.
Parents and step-parents should be as consistent as possible when it comes to daily rules and behaviour, but experts say it’s the biological parents who should handle difficult discipline problems.
Try not to get into a fight in front of the kids when you disagree. Wait when you are both alone and calm to talk about difficult issues. Or you can schedule time each week to talk to each other and problem solve.
5. Celebrate your blended family
An important part of building a loving blended family is creating new rituals. These can be major, like spending time and celebrating holidays together or overcoming difficult times as a family.
Rituals can also be simple, like going grocery shopping, doing chores or watching a movie with your step kids. So go ahead and schedule bonding time with you and your step kids, as well as with step siblings.
6. Don’t rush the process
Blended families need time to adjust to their new living situation, and this can take up to four years (according to the American Psychological Association). It’s important to be patient, positive, and not take things personally, especially when you have pre-teens and young teenagers as step kids.
They didn’t ask for this and didn’t get to choose new family members. When things get rocky, it can help to remind yourself that it’s not about you; they simply need time to accept and adapt.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Sometimes a challenging situation can seem overwhelming, and we can feel hopeless, anxious and depressed. This can have a domino effect on your partner and kids. There’s no reason for anyone in the family to suffer needlessly.
Talk to a friend, family member or loved one who understands the situation. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, even if it’s just paying a sitter to watch the kids for a night while you spend some well-deserved “me” time.
And it’s easier than ever in the post-COVID world to get in touch with a counsellor/therapist who can bring clarity, perspective and fresh solutions to your problem.