Everyone with children remarrying after divorce hopes to successfully blend their new spouse and all of the kids, whether his, hers or both into a loving, supportive, functional family. As many of us discover, the reality of blending families is a lot harder than it appears to be from the outside looking in.
While completing research for my book, Living Happier After: 20 Women Talk About Life After Divorce, I spoke with many women who had remarried following their divorces. They spoke of experiencing the full spectrum of emotions and family turmoil when combining the different children and everyone’s perspectives under the same roof. I also have personal experience working to blend children from my spouse’s first marriage and the children we birthed together during our 19-year marriage. In addition, through workshops, my blog, Facebook page and Twitter interaction I have communicated with hundreds of women remarried after divorce who are actively blending families and sharing their successes and failures so we all can learn and build better relationships.
I have compiled the 5 strategies that have consistently proven to help build productive and loving blended families. I share them with you in hopes that we can work together to build stronger communities, one blended family at a time.
1) Don’t Be Afraid to Get Professional Support
You obviously feel things have gone well during the dating and committed relationship period with your S/O, because you’re married or it’s on the horizon. But sometimes when children realize the woman or man in mom or dad’s life will be their new step-parent, things can change.
The children may wonder what this means for them and how their lives may change. If they live with you, they might be concerned about how this new step-parent will affect their day-to-day life. And if you are the non-custodial parent they may wonder if your new spouse will displace them in your life, and maybe they won’t see you as often.
Counseling is the overwhelming choice as the first strategy for building a blended family.
That’s why counseling is the overwhelming choice as the first strategy for building a blended family. Every remarried woman I spoke with that participated in even one premarital counseling session raved about the advantages they felt were gained from the experience. They felt as if they were making an educated decision, not just based on their love and desire to be together, but also the reality of what they were attempting to accomplish by combining their (respective) children into a new family dynamic. The counseling forced them to explore potential issues to ensure they were in agreement about critical parenting concepts. Everything from decisions about discipline to finances, from child support to college tuition were subjects on the table for discussion.
Make sure you and you new spouse are starting off on the same page from a parental perspective. Talking to a neutral and knowledgeable therapist or counselor can give your relationship and your blended family a big advantage.
2) The Biological Parent Must Spend Time with His/Her Biological Kids Alone
Children need to spend time with their biological parent without the new spouse on a regular basis. This is important because kids need to continue to build a strong relationship with that parent. If all family time includes the new spouse this can contribute to a child’s feeling that the new marriage is changing their relationship with their biological parent. Alone time with their biological parent is critical to their emotional well-being.