8 TIPS FOR BLENDED FAMILIES
It’s estimated that approximately four in ten marriages include at least one partner who has previously been married. The result is what is often referred to as a “blended family”—where a new member is added to an existing family.
Of course, integrating new members into a family is a delicate task, particularly when children are involved.
Whether you’re incorporating a new partner into your life or being integrated into an existing family, here are eight tips that can make the challenge of establishing a blended family much easier.
1. Coordinate schedules properly
One of the more difficult tasks that blended families are faced with is scheduling. As children may split time between households, parents may be required to coordinate with ex-partners.
Child custody laws also vary from state to state. In Arizona, for example, where joint custody is an option, parents of blended families should keep clear channels of communication so that schedules don’t become a point of contention.
2. Discuss parenting styles beforehand
Whether you’re joining another family or inviting a new partner into a family of your own, it’s important to discuss parenting styles upfront.
Particularly in the case of young children, two parents who are at odds or enforce different sets of rules can cause confusion and anxiety. Approaching a new family dynamic with one parenting style can create the foundation the child needs to adapt to a newly blended household.
3. Spread out the changes
Children don’t always cope well with change. To a child, a significant change can suggest instability.
For this reason, if you and your new partner plan to make sweeping changes in your household, consider implementing them over time. Giving children a chance to gradually adjust to changes will result in less conflict and more harmonious relationships. For example, you may want to hold off on a possible family last name change, as these kinds of things take time and patience.
4. Respect all relationships
Blended families come with all types of new relationships, whether it’s the relationship between you and stepchildren, a new partner and your children, or a new partner and an ex-partner.
It’s important to emphasize respectful relationships early on. This goes for not only a child’s respect for a new stepparent but also the stepparent’s respect for a new stepchild. While one member may not be particularly fond of another member at first, there should still be a sense of respect between the two parties.
5. Curb your expectations
It’s every stepparent’s dream to make an immediate connection with their new partner’s children. Similarly, it’s every parent’s dream for their new partner to form an immediate bond with their children. However, this isn’t always realistic.
In many cases, children may still be wrestling with the loss of a parent or reconciling the addition of a new family member. One study even suggests that 25% of children with divorced parents experience serious social, emotional, or psychological issues.
As a new stepparent, it’s possible that you may not feel an immediate connection with your partner’s children either.
It takes time for bonds to form and for genuine love and affection to grow. Be patient and continue to invest in those relationships, regardless of whether or not you’re seeing the fruits of it yet.
6. Identify opportunities to bond
Stepfamilies include parents and children whose schedules consist of all sorts of daily responsibilities and activities. It might not be realistic to take the family on a vacation every few months, but there will certainly be opportunities for you or your partner to bond with stepchildren.
Whether it’s having a conversation with a stepchild, picking them up from soccer practice, or taking them out to ice cream, these seemingly small acts can go a long way towards cultivating a relationship and genuine bond.
7. Don’t neglect your new marriage
In the process of attempting to ingratiate yourself with new family members, be careful not to neglect the new marriage itself. Entering into a blended family dynamic can often be a source of frustration that drives a wedge between partners.
Make sure you’re continually investing in the relationship with your partner. When children of a blended family recognize a strong marriage, they may find it easier to adjust to the new circumstances.
8. Know that it can be done
While the blended family is not quite the norm, it is becoming fairly common. In fact, the US Bureau of Census reports that 1,300 new stepfamilies form every day.
Whether you’re searching for your place within a blended family or looking to integrate a new family member, take encouragement from the fact that building a blended family is a task that can be accomplished.