I am in a bind. It is obvious to me that my future stepchildren do not like me and they really oppose my proposed marriage marriage to their mom? Should I go through with my plans to remarry even though my future stepchildren are against the marriage? I struggle between my happiness and causing problems in their family.
First of all, in a second marriage that involves children, you're blending a family. That is rarely easy. And the research proves it is REALLY HARD, with 60 to 73 percent of remarriages involving children in divorce. And if the kids are openly hostile and opposed to the marriage, it stands to reason that you can expect an even rougher ride than the average couple in your situation.
The key thing to know up front is that blended families present parenting challenges that must be navigated with extreme care. Stepparents are often confronted with long-standing alliances and power struggles and that can be a shock initially.
Know ahead of time that you’re going to have to work extremely hard and very consistently to overcome the barriers and develop positive bonds with your new stepchildren. This will take some time and it won’t be easy, but it’s part of the challenge of building a successful blended family. It will mean taking a sincere interest in the kids and spending lots of one-on-one time with each of them. In particular, you’ll want to take special care to praise them at every opportunity instead of simply punishing them when they misbehave. In other words, make an intentional effort to “catch them being good.”
Because of the unique challenges involved, we recommend that those who are planning to remarry and “reconstitute” a family should seek professional counseling well before the wedding. Couples who attempt to “go it alone” may be setting themselves up for frustration and failure. Expectations, roles, and parenting styles should be clarified and openly discussed with the help of an experienced marriage-and-family therapist.
Divorce and separation are things that many people dread. It is a painful process that most couples go through. There are a few cases where the decision is reached amicably and both parties are okay with the situation.
Most people are tempted to rush into another union. You should, however, take time to make a solid foundation. Before making a decision the children have to be considered. They should also be given time to adjust. Making them go through multiple drastic changes is not good.
Most blended families that have succeeded have one thing in common. The parents took their time, on average two years or even more after a divorce before remarrying. One drastic family change should not be piled over the other. The period of adjustment significantly increases the chances of success.
There are a few things that you should know early so that you do not end up getting frustrated. Do not expect to be in good terms with the children of your partner overnight. Love and affection develop gradually. You should let it happen at its own pace as you get to know them.
One way you can do this is by spending time with them especially in real life situations. Simply put the activities you engage in should reflect everyday life. You should also make an effort to make your children used to your partner. You should encourage your children to get to know each other.
You should discuss about parenting early. Get a common ground on how you can parent as a team. Be open to ideas and if necessary make parenting changes. The adjustments to parenting styles should be done before you remarry. This will make the transition smoother. Your children will not blame their stepparent for the changes.
Do not allow ultimatums. No one should put you in a situation where you have to make a decision between your new partner and your children. You should make it clear that you want both of them in your life. Insist they respect one another.
As mentioned earlier, do not expect too much. Do not expect the children to put in the same amount of effort to make the relationship work. This, however, should not stop you from putting time, love, energy and affection in fostering a good relationship. This investments and gestures may eventually pay off in the long run. Children should be given time to make a successful transition.
Irrespective of how many top tips for stepfamilies you get yourself accustomed with and how strictly you adhere to a blended family guide, there are numerous challenges that would shape up as barriers in your way to become a family that gels well.
Couples may get divorced because their relationship hits a dead end or if they develop certain irreconcilable differences. A parent might remarry in case of an unfortunate demise of the co-parent. In case of a remarriage, it is the kids that are subjected to the most dramatic changes. They might find it extremely difficult to bond with their stepdad or stepmom. Naturally, there are numerous barriers that have to be overcome to build a happy family.
Till then, it is a work in progress.
Blended family tips can help you to get started with developing cordial bonds with the stepchildren. But this act is not the sole responsibility of either the parent or the stepparent. Both have to take proactive steps to make the kids feel comfortable and positive about the developments. Neither the parent nor the stepparent should be indulging in demeaning the biological parent of the kids, undermining the role of the stepparent or fueling the sadness of the kids post divorce or remarriage.
Undermining the importance of the biological parent or the stepparent, rewarding sadness of the kids by becoming overprotective and seeing no faults on their part and trying to behave in an unnatural way to create a world of make-believe would all backfire while overcoming the barriers is a work in progress.
Both, the parent and the stepparent, must take positive and constructive steps to make the children feel positive. Kids should be cared for, given their space and the family should indulge in activities as a family. The kids were not party to the decision of remarrying or in the choice of the new partner their parent had opted for but they can always be party to decisions taken thereafter. Weekly or weekend routines, what the family should do on holidays or when there are festivities and special occasions can always have the kids as the decisive players. There has to be an effort to build a collective future and everyone has to be a stakeholder.
Neither can the stepparent be ignored nor the biological parent who has been divorced or is not alive anymore. The kids should feel accepted and so should the stepparent. The biological parent who has remarried should also strike a balance between living a new life with his or her new partner while not forgetting that the kids are an equal priority.
What do you think? Are we missing any key barriers to building a successful stepfamily?
Becoming a stepparent is a big responsibility and for many a huge source of anxiety. For many entering into the role of stepparent they feel as though they will need to be the authority figure, but at the same time they would like to be the cool adult that the children will like. After all you are not their biological parent, but you will be part of a team that will have to make decisions on how to discipline and have fun. It is for this reason that many psychologists and child behavior specialist have studied what needs to happen for both stepparent and children to get along well in the new family structure.
Give it Time
The first tip to becoming a stepparent is to have patience. Many stepparents have a grand dream that they will marry the love of their life and the children will simply love and respect them. Although this is a great dream it is not the reality for most people and blended families. All children will react differently to a new parent in their lives. Many feel loyal to their biological parent, which makes them feel guilty if they begin to have fun with you. Others might feel defiant because you are not their biological parent and you will never fill the void of their missing parent. Others might even feel like you are the reason their family will not be together again. Remember that the child has anxiety too and it will take time to feel like a family unit.
Know When to Seek Help
Another helpful tip to becoming a stepparent is to know when to seek help. If you have patience many blended families will start to feel comfortable around one another after some time. You, the stepparent, will begin to feel more comfortable being their authority figure and knowing your role as a stepparent. The children will also become more attached to your presence in the house and they too will become more responsive and comfortable with you being part of the decision making. However, if the children or even just a child does not respond to you or warm up to you after a long period of time it might be helpful to seek professional help. There are many great family therapists that could help you and your stepchildren get over their issues and anxiety.
Creating a strong blended family takes time and a lot of patience. It also helps to research and learn a few great tips for strengthening the blended family. Knowing the best practices will help create a blended family unit that encourages honesty, trust, and love.
There are many ways to try and put together a blended family and there are many ways to strengthen a blended family, but the most important tip is to try and encourage the whole family to continue being a unit. This may be difficult for many families that do not have the other biological parent around or for families that can simply not get along, but it is important to try and remain a unit even if the relationship did not work out. The children should continue to see their biological parents as a united front, which mean both parents will have to agree on major decisions and punishments.
If the family unit is still able to amicably raise the children the stepparent should be used as the counselor or person that the children can complain and vent to. This will open the door for trust. Many children feel like their stepparent is trying to take over for their biological parent and will begin to resent or dislike the stepparent. This type of a situation is not conducive to strengthening the blended family, which is why it is very important to ensure the stepparent is still part of the decisions, but remains neutral for the children.
Another great tip for strengthening the blended family is to ensure there is honesty between children and adults. As cheesy as your children might find family meetings it is important to check in with the family as a whole to ensure everyone is on the same page and all members of the family are fully informed in big moves or decisions. This means that you should sit your family down and explain that the stepparent is simply an added person that will love and support them.
You will also want to ensure that the children understand that the stepparent is not here to take the spot of their biological parent. It might seem obvious that this is what is to happen, but many children simply need to hear these words come from their parent’s mouth. It would even be better if you and their other biological parent were able to discuss this with the children together.
Coping with Kids
Nothing challenges a remarriage more than the presence of children from a prior marriage, and most remarriage households contain kids. While 60
percent is the break-up rate for all remarriages, for those involving
children, the rates are higher, approximately 65 percent. The failure
rate is highest in the first two years, before these multiplex families
have even sorted themselves out.
If there are kids, partners to a remarriage do not get a developmental
period as couple before they are parents. And then, because it takes time
for family feelings to develop, that bond is immediately under assault by
the children. For that reason especially, every family expert recommends
that couples heading into remarriage prolong the period of courtship
despite the desire and the financial incentives to merge households.
Also, there can be resentment because a child sees their original family being broken apart. Compounded by the fact that the children do not have the same perspective as the adults on how and why their parents' marriage broke up they don't have perspective. Sometimes explaining this to a child works, but for younger children it more important to focus on the future and just move on with building an amazing family.
Working to understand a child's emotional state is really important. Parents need to work on having a deep empathic understanding of the emotional stress a child is going through and not just the typical surface level "this is a hard time" view. It is a lot of work, but it is worth it and will help create a tighter relationship with children.
Finally, both parents need to work on bringing the family together both formally and informally. Things like the Family Medallion Ceremony during the wedding event is one way, but others include family events and get together often and early. Things like BBQs, ball games, movie nights are all small moments that add up.
Early in the formation of a blended family, you as a step-parent may want to focus on developing positive relationships with your stepchildren. You will increase the chances of success by thinking about what the children need. Starting before the wedding is a great idea, the earlier the better. Age, gender, and personality are not irrelevant, but all children have some basic needs and wants that should be met as a precursor to a great relationship.
Children want to feel:
Let the child set the paceEvery child is different and will show you how slow or fast to go as you get to know them. Some kids may be more open and willing to engage. Shy, introverted children may require you to slow down and give them more time to warm up to you. Given enough time, patience, and interest, most children will eventually give you a chance.
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