These days, it's pretty common to be living in a blended family—a family where both parents have children from previous relationships. And blended families can be a beautiful thing! There's nothing bad about having more love to go around, after all. That being said, getting to the point where everyone gets along does take effort....and time! Here are some strategies that will help make your blended family work.
This is a simple question to answer: it’s mostly due to the increasing divorce rate, which in the U.S currently stands at around 46% (2014 figures). That’s a huge percentage of the demographic who are available to enter new relationships with a past marriage behind them, and that may mean kids too. Having children outside of marriage is also becoming more common (the marriage rate is decreasing in the United States). So finding love a second time around (as a parent) is an increasingly typical scenario.
In a blended family, the roles of individual members will be redefined—it's inevitable. For instance, a mother may now also be a stepmother. These two roles are not the same at all (but will vary on an individual basis, as no two new relationships are the same). Melinda Farmer, a lifestyle blogger at Writinity and ResearchPapersUK commented on the challenges with these dual roles, and offered some suggestions on dealing with them. “Whereas a mother is a mother, a stepmother must play a different role," she says. "How do you combine these two responsibilities effectively? The starting point is to view them as separate, and always approach them as such. What works in one role will not in another, and this always needs bearing in mind."
In any family, parents may have a different approach to raising children. This can be exacerbated in a blended family. In this case, communication, planning and understanding is essential. Edward Connor, a psychology writer at DraftBeyond and LastMinuteWriting, cautions the importance of having parenting discussions early on in a relationship. “The correct approach here is early recognition between the couple that variations in approach exist, but you must never work against each other, but rather seek to complement each other’s styles," he says. "And as some of the children may be biologically yours awhile others within the unit may not, you need to set the boundaries early. All parents need to have these discussions, but it becomes an issue of paramount importance in a blended family unit."
In a blended family, it's important that each parent spend quality time with his or her biological children, as well as the new blended family unit. Kids have an incredible ability to adapt, but when it comes to understanding their place in this new family unit, baby steps must be taken and reassurance provided more than ever. It is important that each member of the couple understands this, and although it can be difficult in a budding new relationship, the children should take some priority. Any new partner who doesn’t understand and respect that fact is probably not mature enough to enter into a blended family unit.
The new household is not the same as the old, and kids will always try to push the boundaries (it’s what they do). You must be clear from the beginning that new rules, routines, and parameters exist (as they will in the other parent’s household if there is one) and it will take time to establish this. Open communication, in this case, is essential.
Any new baby will obviously open up any old wounds of jealousy and insecurity, and so this can be a delicate time. Involve the older children in all of the new baby routines, and give them a central role as a sibling.
Marketing expert Pam F. Contreras writes about any number of subjects at both LuckyAssignments and GumEssays. She is also a respected lifestyle coach and self-professed ‘happiness consultant’ who spreads the word that contentment is within reach for all people.