Let’s rewind to the 1970’s. Even if you haven’t seen it, you may have heard about a hit sitcom of the time called, “The Brady Bunch.” This television show famously depicted the union of two families with six step-siblings. Since that decade, divorce rates have remained steady, with about 40 to 50 percent of marriages ending. Given these statistics, remarriages are not uncommon. If уоu аnd уоur new partner have children frоm уоur previous marriages, іt’s quіtе typical fоr thе two families tо unite аnd live together аѕ one family.
Blended families face unique challenges. As stepfamilies start navigating their new family roles, there’s a delicate balance between fostering these new relationships and allowing everyone time to adjust. If you’re thinking about combining households and even if you’ve already moved in together, it’s highly beneficial to consider the following to help everyone thrive:
Steps to Take With Your Partner
1. Build a strong relationship. You’re the captains of this ship. As parents and heads of your household, you set the course for your family. Make time for each other and communicate openly and respectfully.
2. Structure your household. Create the division of labor that works best for your individual needs. You may be the financial guru while your partner is a gourmet cook. Your older kids may find it gratifying to share their experience and watch out for their younger siblings.
3. Decide on house rules together. Kids need consistent expectations. Come to an agreement with your partner on what you consider acceptable behavior and the consequences for not following the rules. If the children spend time in more than one household, try to coordinate the rules as much as possible.
4. Talk about money. Money is a significant issue, especially when you’re merging two families. Share all of the details about your income, assets, and debts. Find common ground on how to spend, save and invest. Consider prenuptial agreements if it’s important to document your separate property.
5. Respect your differences. There are many advantages to bringing more life experience into your role as parent and spouse. There’s also the possibility that you’ll need to adjust or merge your different traditions and habits concerning everything from holidays to curfews.
6. Put the good of your family first. Above all, keep your eyes on the wellbeing of your family as a whole. Try to consider everyone’s needs and make reasonable accommodations to keep things running smoothly.
Steps to Take with the Kids
1. Understand your role. As a stepparent, take it slow. You can be a valuable force in your stepchild’s life, but they already have their own parents. Work at being a loving mentor and positive role model.
2. Empathize. Try to see things from the perspective of all the children involved. Validate their feelings and acknowledge the major adjustments they’ve been asked to make. Be sensitive to their concerns about what their peers will think and how the rest of their family is getting along.
3. Spend time together. Invite your stepchildren to spend some time alone with you so that you can get to know each other. Identify your common interests and plan outings around them.
4. Enforce the house rules. Explain the house rules clearly at the outset. It’s usually best for your partner to provide most of the discipline for their own children, especially in the early stages of the relationship.
5. Expect setbacks. Your family relationships will fluctuate over time. You and your partner will probably learn by trial and error as you take on new challenges. Children may feel conflicting loyalties and need to pull back sometimes.
6. Support the child’s relationship with their grandparents. If both of your stepchild’s grandparents are still alive and engaged in their life, work to protect that sacred relationship. Put the child’s interests first. Grandparents are a precious resource who can provide extra love and attention.
7. Consider counseling. Counseling may help smooth the transition or get you through any rocky episodes. Look for a licensed therapist who is familiar with the special dynamics of blended families.
With patience and love, you can pull off the balancing act required to help your blended family bond. Build a strong relationship with your partner and help the children feel secure as they cope with all the adjustments involved.