Approximately 50% of families are blended families, or "step families". Often the children involved in a blended marriage are less than excited about it. Considering so many marriages include offspring from previous relationships, step families are more prevalent than ever before.
As we've mentioned in other blog posts, things rarely go as planned. On top of managing a relationship with your significant other, you'll also have to play a balancing act between your usual parenting responsibilities and making sure that your children feel comfortable when it comes to integrating with the new family. While a blended family has the potential to be a beautiful thing, it's not about to go without a hitch...
Even your normal parenting routines may become obsolete in the dynamic of your new household. Every individual involved will have to adapt and find their role - parents and children alike. Needless to say this can be daunting, but REID Counseling is here to equip you for the task. The following tips will help your new family get through the acclimation period and position you for a bright future ahead.
While you may bear the title of blended family, words alone don't change the dynamic of children and their parents. The last thing you want is for your new co-parent to think that you were cruel or harsh to their biological child. The fact is, children tend to have a far more established bond with their biological parent than their step parent. Positioning yourself as a disciplinarian too early may give root to a negative connotation within a child that grows into them despising you entirely.
In addition, just about any parent is going to be territorial over their own children. Early in the relationship you should be the exclusive disciplinarian of your child and vice versa. The less you cross-discipline each other's children, the less of a chance there is of that child (or your significant other) pitting themselves against you.
Even children who haven't started school have been shown to be competent enough to give opinions about major changes in their lives . Have discussions as a family in an environment where they can feel secure when telling their worries, and take them seriously.
Give feedback and they will feel valued and cared for as a result. Better yet, you and your significant other can put their concerns at ease together - this will build an element of trust and strengthen your household as a unit. You're already on your way to success!
If they are part of the picture whatsoever, you need to get along with your ex as well your spouse's ex. Depending on circumstances, this is a non issue for some. For others, this can be an extremely difficult one.
No matter what happened in the past, a drama free future is going to be crucial to a happy blended family. Old relationships should stay in the past and all that should remain of them is what benefits you and your SO's household. Always remain cordial and polite when you can.
While you don't need to be "best friends" with your ex, you need to make sure that any issues with them don't bleed into your family. It's important to remember that whatever emotions you might feel around this topic, your children feel tenfold. The last thing you want is for them to feel torn at the core in between two parents. Always but the well being of your children first and resist inclinations of your own that could be detrimental.
This is equally essential on both sides of the aisle - so remind your partner to behave similarly.
It can be spaghetti Wednesday nights or a weekly movie... what matters is that you're bonding. You're having fun, building relationships and creating a sense of security and love for your children. Ask your family what they think would be a fun thing to do every week. You may be surprised at their enthusiasm when they're given a chance to contribute and have a say in how their family time is spent.
Having a family tradition or two will help bestow your children with a sense of identity and security. Other ideas for family traditions include story telling, eating out at a place you all love every week, playing a game in the backyard, or making homemade icecream.
Participating in these traditions will make your step family feel like everyone's on the same team. Over time the traditions you set will be eagerly anticipated and you will be bonding with your family like clockwork before you know it.
Dedicate time in your day to getting to know your step children. Ask them about their interests and opinions, and make plans that include activities that they would enjoy. It's a shame, but large amounts of parents don't spend time to actually know what's going on in their children's minds and lives. This is just as important for stepchildren, especially when it comes to keeping a family dynamic strong.
As you get to know them, you may be surprised at what their thoughts are surrounding different topics. Making a habit out of being inquisitive and spending personal time together, this will show them that you care and are on their side.
Immediately assuming the role of a parent figure can seem forced and awkward. Instead be yourself and be a role model figure who has their best interest at heart. It takes time for relationships to form organically, so don't create a disaster by rushing or forcing things.
More often than not couples in blended families are more preoccupied with their children than with each other. If your children see a strong connection, sincerity, and mutual respect in your marriage, they will be comforted and become more likely to emulate those qualities. Yet the marriage is what a family revolves around. When it comes to the children you and your partner should act as one unit, especially when making decisions in front of the kids. All decisions need to be made with both spouses acting as a team. Though the biological parent should always be the acting disciplinarian, the non-biological parent should still be a part of creating guidelines.
Outside of the children however, make sure that you have enough quality time as a couple. Spend time alone, form new hobbies together or join groups around your community. Devoting time to each other will play to your advantage in various family situations, and give your kids the best foundation possible. If you find yourself struggling as a couple, Dan Johnson at REID Counseling Group has specialized in relationship therapy for more than 20 years.
Step families require flexibility. You may experience less than ideal visitation schedules when it comes to you and your partner's kids. You may have to deal with tricky situations with a football game or you partner's ex running late. Learn to expect things to not go as expected. Don't let these sorts of situation get to you. In order to succeed in a blended marriage, you have to learn to stay calm and redirect your emotions for the better.
Marriages are hard. Blended marriages are even harder. To be sure you're doing everything you can to ensure your family's happiness, you can find help at REID Counseling Group. Even if you aren't in the Katy area, we strongly recommend counseling for any new blended families, as well as families that have recently begun to struggle. The first few years are usually the hardest and when you will need the most support. If you feel as if you're on shaky ground with your blended family and you live near the Katy, Texas area, send us a message today. Blended Family Coaching from an authority in the field can help ensure things go as smoothly as possible.
Last but not least, a successful blended family isn't easy or instant. Try not to force your desired outcome. Use these tips along with counseling and let things come together organically.
Even when both partners are fully committed, things can become strenuous when you're managing all the moving pieces. Finding the time to breathe, relax, and remember this is what you signed up for is essential. Remember it is normal to have problems. How you choose to respond to them is what counts.
Hopefully this blog post proves informational at worst and life changing at best. Here at REID Counseling Group in Katy, Texas we believe in empowering the individual by freely giving knowlege for them to apply to their lives. Every two weeks you can expect to see at least one blog post from our team covering a wide varity of topics.
Check out this page to learn more about how we help step families.
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