Picture this: you have children, you’re dating a person who also has children, and you decide you want to get married. Combining your life with another person’s is usually no easy task, especially when kids are involved. Will the kids like each other? Will your partner's parenting style be close enough to yours to make this work? Will the kids adjust well to their new lifestyle and living situation?
While it is true that the adjustments may be difficult, they are not impossible to make. Many people successfully transition from a single parent household to a blended family without a hitch. Every family has ups and downs, and blended families are no exception. While there may be bumps along the way, you can gain the knowledge and tools necessary to have a thriving blended family.
What Is A Blended Family?
A blended family is a family that comes together as a result of the relationship of two adults who both already have children. This involves each parent taking on the stepparent role for their partner’s children.
When the two families merge, there are many things that can be done to make sure the new family thrives. These are relatively simple to implement but require consistency to guarantee longevity.
Give It Time
When you first choose to blend your families, there might be chaos. The children may have resentment towards your new partner as a result of missing their other parent or wanting to be a whole family with them again.
The timeline that it takes to be successful as a blended family varies depending on many factors. The children's age, their relationship with your partner or your ex, and whether they have to move to a new home are all a part of this. Although you have considered this decision extensively before pulling the trigger, the kids may feel like they have had the rug pulled from underneath them.
This time of transition may seem to drag on forever. The most important thing you can do at this stage is remain a constant for your children. Reassure them that while their surroundings and situations may have changed, the love you and your partner have for them has not and never will.
You want to make sure you give the children as much time as needed to adjust to their new lives. Mind your patience and rest assured; better days are ahead!
When you choose to take the next step with your partner, you may have to be around exes frequently, which can create delicate situations. It can be difficult to know how to interact with this person, especially if you are faced with negativity or even hostility.
It is imperative that you avoid conflict at all costs. Even though your partner's ex may exhibit ill feelings towards you, this person is still a parent to the children that you are now helping to raise. No matter how much hurt or anger has been dealt out, it’s best to remain cordial—at the very least—with this person. This can be a lot easier said than done, especially if the ex-partner doesn’t wish to be friendly with you. While it would be ideal if you were both on the same page and treated each other well, the reality is that some people just aren’t in a place to give you the respect you deserve. It’s possible they will come around in the future, once time has passed and emotions have died down. So, don’t give up on them.
When you follow this philosophy, you are showing the children that you care for them by showing kindness to their parent. You want to model healthy and good relationships, even with people you aren’t on particularly good terms with. Additionally, by letting the children see you have a good relationship with your partner's ex, you lessen the risk of alienating them, which can cause further issues under the roof that you have worked so hard to build.
Remaining on good terms with your partner's ex won't always be an easy task. There may be times when you slip up or forget the path that you have chosen to take with this person; that’s okay. Have a conversation with them regarding how you will redirect so that this doesn't happen in the future.
Children can be very adaptable and resilient creatures. Given the right environment and support, they can handle almost anything. However, you want to set them up for success and offer them enough support. In order for you to provide that support, you will need to create plenty of structure.
There are many things that you will need to do to create structure in your home. The first thing you can implement relatively quickly and easily is a chore schedule. This will give the children something constructive to do with their time while teaching them valuable skills that they will bring into their adult lives. It also teaches them that they will need to contribute to this new household so that you can all thrive.
If you have young children who are not able to do traditional chores, you could add some structure by having a plan for each day. Make sure that mealtimes and play times are around the same time each day. Another important aspect of this comes at bedtime. Research shows that children who have a consistent and early bedtime have increased emotional stability, growth, and development.
When you are a part of a blended family, you learn very quickly that there are many moving parts. While it is important that you provide plenty of structure in your new house, it is equally as important to be flexible.
Flexibility comes in many forms when it comes to blended families. This could apply to the schedule for sharing the kids with your ex or your partner's ex. It could also apply to the way you and your partner choose to parent each of your children respectively.
When considering a visitation schedule for all children involved, consider what will be best for them. The children must always come first. They will do best if they have both of their parents in a supportive capacity. Be as flexible as you can with your ex when you are planning things.
It is likely that both you and your partner have been doing the single parent gig for a while before you chose to do it together. The way that you parent your children will inevitably be different than the way they parent theirs. Some parents choose to let the biological one discipline and guide their children.
If this doesn't sound right for you, remember to be flexible with your partner. In time, you can get on the same page, but it will take plenty of patience!
Open A Line Of Communication
On your journey to getting that perfect blended family, you will have many trials and tribulations. There are so many different things going on all at once, and it will at times be difficult to manage.
The best way for you to be able to identify and conquer your problems is by talking about them and facing them head on. Set aside time each week where you can all sit down together and talk about what's working and what's not. On your first session, you might ask everyone for their blended family definition. Discuss what this means for each of you and set goals for the future.
As you continue on this journey to being a big happy family, you may run into issues that are unique to blended families. Each time something comes up, though, you will have a platform and way to fix your issues through communication.
This can also greatly improve the children's trust in you and your partner because they have a platform where they can speak and be heard. They will also see the desire that you have to make things manageable and easy for them. The family can come together as more of a team, which can help make the whole process more enjoyable and memorable for everyone.
If you are doing all you can and the communication just isn't constructive, a licensed family counselor could also be a valuable resource for you and your family. Consider reaching out to someone in your area when you feel ready.
Start New Traditions
It can be hard for everyone to have a sense of belonging and happiness in a new blended family. Once the adjustment period wears off, you want to be sure that you are doing all you can to keep the unit lively and happy.
One way you can do this is by starting new traditions. This can be incorporated in the foods that you cook on Thanksgiving or the way you decorate the tree on Christmas, but it doesn't have to extend to a holiday at all if you don't want it to. This could be as simple as setting a time aside each week for game night or going to a movie once or twice a month.
This step can be essential in creating new memories and giving your blended family more definition. It’s likely to help foster a sense of belonging and understanding for everyone. Additionally, the bonding time that you will get from this may be invaluable to your success as a new blended family.
There is nothing more memorable and exciting than having fun and making memories together. This can help solidify your family's success for many years to come.
Get Support From BetterHelp
Starting a blended family can be hard work, and you shouldn’t have to do it alone. If you and your partner are experiencing issues that feel too complex to handle on your own, consider speaking to a therapist through BetterHelp. All you need is a phone, laptop, or tablet and a willingness to talk and learn. Your therapist will be able to equip you with new tools to conquer the challenges your family is facing. Sometimes you just need someone to listen attentively to what you have to say. When you receive advice, you can rest knowing it’s from an unbiased, caring source who is here to help. Consider reaching out today, no matter what kind of problems you may be experiencing in your life. BetterHelp can provide the support you need right away so that you can focus on what matters most.