Tips for Creating Successful Blended Families

You’re in love and planning to get married.  This is your second chance at love, and you couldn’t be any more certain that this time, you’ve got it right.  This is “the one!”  It’s all about rainbows, puppy dogs and unicorns for you, but how are your children seeing this new chapter?

Almost all children have a dream of their parents getting back together, and your remarriage means the end of that dream for them. Even if they love your new partner, your remarriage may bring up complex feelings of insecurity, loyalty to their other parent and fear of the future.  Be empathetic, put yourself in the children’s place and attempt to visualize how you would feel in the situation.  Children of divorce have already gone through many changes, and another change in their family structure can be particularly stressful.

According to Wikipedia, 80 percent of people that get divorced will remarry, and most of those will do so within 4 years.  Remarriages involving children have a higher rate of divorce than those without children, so it’s obvious there is a correlation with the stress of blending a new family. Maybe in the case of blended families, we can even go as far to say, if the children aren’t happy, no one is going to be happy.

How can we ease the transition for children and make the stepfamily a happier family?  It’s a complex issue with many variables, but these are some guidelines that are helpful in most situations.

  1. Allow time for the kids to get to know their future stepparent and stepsiblings.  They need to become familiar with them in a no pressure setting, sharing fun activities and creating bonds.  Don’t rush into a whirlwind marriage and expect them to be thrilled.
  2. When you do decide to marry, be sure you tell the kids before you tell anyone else.  Don’t risk them hearing it from an outside source.  If possible, include them in the process so they will feel valued and included.
  3. Be realistic in your expectations. It’s estimated that it takes two years for a blended family to feel comfortable in their new situation. Don’t expect the children to feel an immediate bond with their new stepparent or stepsiblings. Be patient.
  4. It’s crucial to allow the children to talk about their feelings and ask questions.  They need to be heard, their concerns addressed and their questions answered.
  5. The child will feel less resentful of the new stepparent if they still have some time alone with their biological parent.  Your child is having to become accustomed to sharing you with your new spouse and possibly stepsiblings.  They need the continuity and emotional security of having special time with the original parent.
  6. The stepparent needs to find a common interest with the stepchildren and invest time and energy creating a bond. It doesn’t have to be big, it can be as simple as a weekly bike ride or trip to the library.
  7. Think about having a weekly family meeting.  This can be a time when everyone is able to express any concerns they have or problems that need to be worked out. It can also be a time for positive interactions; discussing individual’s high points of the week, making plans for weekly activities, future vacations and setting family goals.

Creating a happy family can be a lot of work but it can also reap rich rewards. Keeping the lines of communication open between all the parents and also between the parents and children is key.  Listen, be patient, be empathetic and respect the needs of all family members. It probably won’t be easy, you’ll have your frustrations and problems, but you just may also have your share of rainbows, puppy dogs and unicorns!

Categories: Single Stepping