I come from a family that was so well blended I wasn’t even aware that our family dynamic wasn’t the norm until I was at least in high school. The term blended family was new to me. Even though my parents each came into their union with children from previous marriages, my sisters were just my sisters and mommy and daddy were just that. I distinctly remember my mother saying “the only steps in our family are in the staircase”. My parents made this thing seem so easy that when I fell in love with a man who had pre-teen children, I just knew it would be easy breezy. I was wrong. I was pull out my hair, crying, screaming, looking for the escape hatch wrong. There are many reasons why my family failed to blend well, some within my control, some not, but hindsight is 20/20 and here’s a list of a few things I’d change if I could.
1. Have realistic expectations. You probably won’t instantly love your new spouse’s kids (and vice versa) and they’ll see right through you if you fake it. Get to know them and let the love and affection develop naturally.
2. Don’t move too fast. Divorce is hard on kids (not matter what age). Successfully blending a family is more likely if the new couple waits a couple of years after a divorce to remarry.
3. Discuss parenting styles BEFORE you get married. My husband and I have very different views on parenting. Even though he’s 18 years my senior, I’m way more old school when it comes to the kids. Of course you can’t plan for every situation, but agreeing on how you’ll parent together makes for an easier transition and decreases the chance that the new spouse will be the target of resentment and blame for any changes that are made.
4. Resist the temptation to be the “cool” parent. This is especially important if the kids are only with you part time. Trips and gifts are fun, but the kids should understand that those are treats. Make an effort to incorporate the kids into your ‘real’ life instead of just letting them experience the fun stuff.
5. Don’t choose sides… Or issue ultimatums. Kids will test parents; biological or not. It’s important that you and your spouse parent with a united front. Don’t make your spouse feel like they have to choose between you and their children. Likewise, don’t make your spouse feel like they come second to your kids.
6. They’re just kids. This is something that I’ve really struggled with. You will put a lot of time, energy and love, into the relationship with your new spouse’s kids. Don’t take it personally if those aren’t returned right away.
7. You don’t have to like me… But you do have to respect me. At the end of the day, you can’t force your new spouse’s kids to like you, but in order for the family to even begin to thrive everyone MUST treat each other with respect.
What say you BMWK? What are some tips you have for successfully blending a family?