1. “I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Hemingway
While changes to family structure require adjustment time for everyone involved, these guidelines can help blended families work out their growing pains and live together successfully.
Planning a blended family… Too many changes at once can unsettle children. Blended families have the highest success rate if the couple waits two years or more after a divorce to remarry.
- Make parenting changes before you marry. Agree with your new partner how you intend to parent together, and then make any necessary adjustments to your parenting styles before you remarry. It’ll make for a smoother transition and your kids won’t become angry at your new spouse for initiating changes.
- Don’t allow ultimatums. Your kids or new partner may put you in a situation where you feel you have to choose between them. Remind them that you want both sets of people in your life.
The basic elements that make a successful blended family:
- Solid marriage. You’ll have to grow and mature into the marriage while parenting.
- All relationships are respectful. This is not just referring to the kids’ behavior toward the adults.
Bonding with your new blended family Children want to feel:
- Safe and secure. Children want to be able to count on parents and step-parents.
- Loved. Kids like to see and feel your affection, although it should be a gradual process.
- Appreciated and encouraged. Children of all ages respond to praise and encouragement and like to feel appreciated for their contributions.
An important part of building trust in a family has to do with discipline. Couples should discuss the role each step-parent will play in raising their respective children, as well as changes in household rules. The following tips can help make this difficult transition a bit smoother:
- Establish the step-parent as more of a friend or counselor rather than a disciplinarian.
- Let the biological parent remain primarily responsible for discipline until the step-parent has developed solid bonds with the kids.
- Create a list of family rules. Discuss the rules with the children and post them in a prominent place.
Tips for a healthy blended family
- All brothers and sisters “fall out”, so don’t assume all family arguments are the result of living in a blended family.
- Beware of favoritism. Be fair. Don’t overcompensate by favoring your stepchildren. This is a common mistake, made with best intentions, in an attempt to avoid indulging your biological children.
- Find support. You can learn how other blended families address some of the challenges of blended families.
Spend time every day with your child. Try to spend at least one “quiet time” period with your child (or children) daily. Even in the best of blended families, children still need to enjoy some “alone time” with each parent.
- Set aside time as a couple by making regular dates or meeting for lunch or coffee during school time.
- Present a unified parenting approach to the children – arguing or disagreeing in front of them may encourage them to try to come between you.