3) The Non-Biological Parent Should Develop a Personal Relationship with Each Child
In order to build a friendship between the new spouse and the other spouse’s children they need to spend time without the biological parent’s presence. Finding a shared interest or at a minimum trying to learn more about the child’s interests can help to build a connection. Whether it’s the love of ice cream or a curiosity about sports, fashion or a hobby, look for a subject that you can share in order to facilitate a more natural connection. This can help to eliminate the stress trying of force a child to like you just because of your new relationship. And remember, it takes time, effort and understanding to build a connection.
4) The Non-Biological Parent Can’t Be the Child’s Disciplinarian
It’s not your role as the new spouse to be the disciplinarian for your step-children. That is a recipe for disaster and dysfunction in the family. The biological parent should be the primary disciplinarian for their children. The new spouse’s role is to support the parent’s decisions. If you disagree, those conversations should occur when the children are not around. Agree on a strategy for addressing issues and then support the decision completely.
5) Never Speak Negatively About the Other Parent in the Children’s Presence
The older generation told us right, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Never say bad things about your new spouse’s ex. And keep forgiveness at the top of your list. Speak forgiveness, live it, fall in love with it. Blending families is tough and someone’s feelings are often getting hurt. Don’t let people run over one another, but show compassion for everyone, as much as possible. And especially show compassion for their mom. The children may not mention it, but they will notice how you behave and react.
Blending a family is tough for parents because the most important facet of the success of this effort won’t be controlled by either parent. You can’t make your child like your new spouse, and you certainly can’t make them love him or her, either. That critical factor is in the hands of the child alone.
Remember that if your family isn’t blending the way you’d hoped, that is not the child’s fault. Kids are not messed up or broken after a divorce or end of a relationship. It’s the family relationship that is messed up or broken. And remember, the other parent is their family as well.
BMWK: What are your thoughts? Do you have other suggestions for building a strong blended family?
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Wilma Jones lives in Arlington, VA with her teenage son. Her oldest son is a college student not too far away. She is divorced after 19+ years of marriage. Wilma is a blogger, speaker, coach and author of “Living Happier After: 20 Women Talk About Life After Divorce.” She blogs at Living Happier After.com and Rene Syler’s GoodEnoughMother.com ®. She’s on Facebook (LivingHappierAfter). Follow her on Twitter (@LivingHappierAf).