It’s great when you fall in love again after surviving a painful divorce. You and your new partner are blissfully happy, and you feel that this is a good time to get married and form a blended family with the children you have from your previous marriages.
However, since it can take a long time for blended families to feel comfortable and work well together, the road ahead can be a mixture of satisfying, challenging, and confusing situations, to say the least. The trick to making blended families function properly is to take some time before you remarry, and lay some solid foundations before you actually start living together.
The following steps will help everyone involved in the blended family, to get used to each other, used to the idea of living together, and most importantly, get used to the idea of being a part of a whole new marriage.
Foundations to lay for your new blended family
- Avoid unsettling the children with too many drastic changes – Studies have shown that blended families are more successful when the couple have waited at least two years before getting married
- Don’t have high expectations of loving your partner’s children immediately – You might be madly in love with your new partner, but you will need time to get to know his/her children properly, to allow the love and affection to develop.
- Take time to experience what “real life” will be like when you live together – Spending time at the beach with all the kids is a lot of fun, but it will not give them the true picture of what it’s going to be like to live together. In blended families, everyone should be given the opportunity to experience what it will be like living together in normal, everyday life situations.
- Make parental changes before you get married – You and your new partner have your own ideas about bringing up kids, so discuss any parenting issues you may have before you get married, and make any adjustments as to how you’re going to raise the kids together. This will make the transition a lot easier for both sets of kids, and they won’t become angry with you and your partner for initiating these changes when you’re living together under one roof.
- Do not allow ultimatums – There might come a time when your new partner and your kids put you in a position where you are expected to choose between them. Be firm, and let them know that you want them all to be a part of your life.
- Insist that they respect each other – There are no hard and fast rules that blended families have to like each other, but make it a rule in your home that they have to show respect for one another.
- Lower your expectations – You will probably put a lot of time and energy, affection and love in your new partner’s kids, but don’t expect these to be returned from day one, because it more than likely won’t happen. Children in blended families need time to get used to their new step parents, but the rewards are usually wonderful in the end.
Blended families must have clear, safe boundaries
Discipline plays a big role in developing trust, so parents in blended families should discuss their roles as step-parents in raising their respective kids, including the changes in household rules. Experts suggest that blended families use the following steps to make the transition a bit easier for everyone:
- Step parents in blended families should come across as a counselor or friend, rather than a strict disciplinarian
- The biological parent in blended families should discipline his/her own kids, until a bond has developed between him/her and the partner’s kids
- Blended families must have a set of new rules. These should be discussed with the children and displayed in a prominent place. If possible, be consistent, and try to make the new rules as close as possible to those that the children had in their former homes.
Some blended families find it extremely difficult to make things work, and if this is the case with you, your new partner, and your respective children, then it might be a good idea to get help from an outside source such as a therapist, which could result in immediate positive changes. You can get referrals for a good therapist who specializes in helping blended families to function properly, from friends and family members, mental health associations, or your family doctor.