It is not surprising that many previously married people are entering the dating field. With more than half of all marriages ending in divorce, dating by divorced parents is obviously something done by millions of individuals. More often than not, the people re-entering the dating pool after their marriages end are now adding children to their dating resumes. So it’s not surprising that when two people meet, fall in love and get married, they each have kids. So how do you successfully merge your families?
Be prepared to fail
Yep, this is the first point because setting expectations is important. And its ok. Lots of personalities equals lots of different points of view and opinions and bumps in the road. Parents and children will make mistakes. Be prepared for a rough road and lots of ups and downs, it is perfectly normal and you should treat it accordingly. Be normal when it happens. You will reduce stress, anxiety and disappointment. In the end, what matters most is that you're all together.
Agree on the rules early
Not only are families merging but communication styles are too and so are personalities. Parents must agree on how to handle everyday things like homework, household chores, bedtime and more. The agreed discipline approach to both biological children and stepchildren is important so everybody is on the same playing field. The kids will notice. If there is a consistent message for the kids coming from both parents on what's right and what's wrong, it will make the transition for the children and parents easier.
Bring everybody together at the wedding
No matter how great the relationships are between parents and their future step-children are, the rubber hits the road when it is wedding time. The wedding is the perfect time to bring both sides together in a special way. Kids are smart and should be included in the decision making process during the planning process. It is also a great idea to formally have a Family Medallion Ceremony as a way to bring together both families. Read more about this ceremony and it's significance here.
Silence doesn't mean acceptance.
Check in all the time. Everyone needs to feel heard, especially a child in a newly-blended family. Regular family meetings are a must. Use them as a time to talk about what's working and what's not.
Don't expect to fall in love with your partner’s children overnight. Take it slowly, and get to know them. Love and respect have to be learned and a step parent has to earn them.
All families have falling out period.
All brothers and sisters have “falling out” periods, so don’t assume all family arguments are the result of living in a blended family. Also, don't overreact when these things happen, they are perfectly natural. Let it sort itself out.
Beware of favoritism.
Be fair. Don’t overcompensate by favoring your stepchildren. This is a common mistake, made with best intentions, in an attempt to avoid indulging your biological children.
Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Communicate, communicate, communicate. Be sure to discuss everything. Never keep emotions bottled up or hold grudges.
Make special arrangements.
Make special arrangements. If some of the kids “just visit,” make sure they have a locked cupboard for their personal things. Bringing toothbrushes and other “standard fare” each time they come to your home makes them feel like a visitor, not a member of the blended family.
Find support. Locate a step parenting support organization in your community. You can learn how other blended families address some of the challenges of blended families.
Spend time every day with your child.
Spend time every day with your child. Try to spend at least one “quiet time” period with your child (or children) daily. Even in the best of blended families, children still need to enjoy some “alone time” with each parent.
Patience is a virtue!
Don't just cross your fingers and hope the kids will like each other. They need time to get to know their stepbrothers or sisters. It shouldn’t be hurried.
What, exactly, is a blended family?
In 2006, 43 percent of marriages involved at least one spouse who was remarrying. 65% of those people being remarried bring children from previous relationships into their new families. If you consider the number of families “blending” to create stepfamilies it is a big number and continues to grow. Common terms for these new families is a "blended" family or "step family".
We are often asked by people who are about to become part of a blended family how to get off to a great start. Often there are concerns about how to mesh with another parent’s children and how to treat and handle tough situations. Often in these situations there is a lot of anxiousness and people are just scared. We have all seen the movies with the jealous stepmothers and angry stepsisters. It is enough to make us all cringe. Let's not forget about the father’s role? What steps did he take to ensure his child’s happiness in the new, blended family? He seems to be a very distant figure, unaware of the cruel family dynamics in these storybook blended families.
See our full description of the blended family.
Introducing a new partner anxiety
Introducing a new partner is a minefield, just ask any single parent who has already done so. It is enough to make public speaking seem easy and we all hate that. It is an important moment and even the most mundane questions can be nerve racking to think about.
For those who have already seen their child react with pain or anger when meeting your ex’s new partner, you may be especially wary about revealing that you’ve fallen in love with someone new. It can be a bittersweet pill for the child to swallow and you need to aware of this before you make any introduction. It can also be stressful on you to enjoy your new relationship to the fullest while being concerned about how your children will react. They worry about sharing you and how things will change. Being part of a stepfamily is valid concern for most, especially when they have already seen their original family fall apart.
Many parents are shocked to find that their children—who seemed quite happy during outings with another adult and his or her children—suddenly become upset and withdrawn when a wedding is announced and the prospect living with the stepfamily becomes a reality. For instance, how the original family breakup was handled and the way the new couple’s union is celebrated can definitely set the tone.
Arranging blended family weddings
In addition to the right attitude, another key factor in ensuring a blended family gels early is to involve everybody in the wedding planning process often and early. Go out of your way to ask everyone involved before wedding arrangements are made and don't just pay it lip service. Make sure any children feel involved and that they have a say, it goes a long way in sending them the right message that this is their family and that they count.
Most divorced parents are acutely aware that their children have already been through the trauma of a divorce and have had the difficult job of adjusting to life with only one parent. Throw in a brand new person who is taking attention away from them and things get really complicated, especially for younger children. Don't forget that in most cases the child now has two families and is dealing with visitation issues with the other parent too. Now they’re being asked to make another change: living in a stepfamily. Not an easy task.
It’s not unusual for a couple with children from previous relationships to want to have a child of their own, hoping a new baby will bind the family together. But parents in blended families offer words of caution on this issue: “Wait until you’re truly bonded as a new family” and “Be careful. A new baby can upset the fragile applecart.” The consensus is that you need to allow a sufficient period that encourages the different personalities to find a way to “gel.” Even if the courtship days were blissful, living with others is the only way to know them. Be prepared for the new family to have plenty of “teething trouble,” and arguments over tidying up, money, noise, discipline and the everyday ups and downs of family life. Keep calm, work out compromises and avoid the pitfall of referring to the kids as “your” children versus “my” children. Rules and compromises need to be worked out.
Always remember, however, that you and your partner have decided to make a fresh start and a new, blended family. With love, plenty of patience and understanding, you’ll know you’ve been blessed with a second chance. Take it.
Article ListThe Family Medallion® Wedding
Melding Together a Blended Family
Bonding with your new blended family