6 Ways To Thrive As A Blended Family
Updated February 04, 2020
So you have children and are dating a person that also does, and you decide you want to get married. All of the logistics of combining your lives becomes a lot more complicated. Will the kids like each other? Will your partner's parenting style be close enough to yours to make this work?
While it is true that the adjustments that will have to be made may be difficult, they are not impossible to do. Many people successfully transition from a single parent household to a blended family without a hitch.
What is a Blended Family?
A blended family is a family that comes together as a result of the marriage of two adults who both have children from previous relationships. This involves the stepdad and stepmom role for both sets of children.
When the two families merge, there are many things that can be done to make sure the new family thrives. These are typically easy to implement and only require consistency to guarantee longevity.
Give it Time
When you first choose to blend your families, there will 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 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 will never.
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!
Blended Families: Get Along with the Ex
When you choose to make the next step with your partner, you may be faced with dealing with a bitter or otherwise nasty ex. In the realm of your relationship, it can be difficult to manage this person and you may be tempted to return the negativity you are receiving.
It is imperative that you avoid this at all costs. Even though your partner's ex may disrespect you or berate 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, you must remain cordial at the very least with this person.
When you follow this philosophy, you are showing the children that you care for them by showing kindness to their mother or father. You want to model healthy and good relationships, especially with people that you might not like or want to be friends with. Additionally, by letting the children see you have a bad relationship with your partner's ex, you risk alienating them, which will 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; don't wallow in it. Have a conversation with them and about the kids regarding how you will redirect so that this doesn't happen in the future.
Children are very adaptable and resilient creatures. Given the right environment and support, they can handle almost anything. 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 make sure structure is present 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 to take 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 that are not able to do traditional chores, you could add some structure by having a plan for each day. Make sure that meal times and play times are around the same time each day. Another important aspect of this comes at bedtime. Research shows children that have a consistent and early bedtime have increased emotional stability, growth and development.
Blended Families: Flexibility is Key
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 in which you share 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. It's obvious that your relationship with each of your exes isn't one that was successful, but the children must always come first now. They will do best if they have both of their parents in a supportive capacity. Do everything to 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 will likely be on the same page in regards to this, but it will take time and 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 only way that you will 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 will run into many blended family issues. Each time something comes up, though, you will have a platform and way to fix your issues since you have communication.
This will also greatly improve the children's trust in you and in your partner. This is because you now 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 will come together as more of a team than a foreign body to them, which will make the whole process more enjoyable and memorable for everyone.
If you are doing all you can and the communication just isn't opening up or being constructive, a licensed family counselor could also be a valuable tool for you to use in this case. Reach out to someone in your area sooner rather than later; the longer you wait, the harder your journey will be.
Start New Traditions
It can be hard for everyone to have a sense of belonging and happiness in a new blended family and 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 into 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 is essential in creating new memories and giving your blended family more definition as well. This will create a sense of belonging and understanding in everyone. Additionally, the bonding time that you will get from this will 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 will solidify your family's success for many years to come.