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Step Parenting: Creating a Blended Family

You’ve found the love of your life and are getting married – great! But, if one or both of you have children from a prior marriage or relationship, it can be challenging to combine families. Since statistics show that second marriages have a higher chance of ending in divorce, it is best if you sit down together before your nuptials and talk about each other’s expectations for both the marriage and the kids. That way, you can work out differences before they come up because the last place you want to do this is when you are in the middle of a problem and are arguing and under stress.

8 Tips to a Healthy Blended Family

The marriages that are most successful at step parenting and creating a blended family have several things in common:

  1. They spent time before the marriage discussing ways to create a bond between the children and the new spouse. Although it will take time for a bond to form, by intentionally nurturing one, the connection will form more quickly.
  2. They discussed ways to meet the emotional needs of themselves and the children. They also set up strategies to keep the channels of communication open and reliable between themselves as a couple and also between themselves and the children.
  3. They discussed parenting styles and came to agreements that suit each other’s style of interacting with the children. They also made each biological parent the main rules enforcer for their own children and established the new spouse in the role of “guider” or “friend” instead of disciplinarian.
  4. The couple decided on the house rules for the children and always present a united front to the kids so one spouse isn’t stuck in the middle during a conflict. If there are issues to resolve between the parents in regard to the kids, it should always be done in private. Additionally, if the children are older, they should also get to weigh in on the new house rules.
  5. They discussed ways to keep the romance alive as a couple. A newly blended family takes up a lot of “couple time”, so you need to create a standing date night or make it a point to find activities to do together (just the two of you).
  6. They talked with their extended families about how to deal with their former spouse and in-laws. You might be amicable with your ex and your family may love them, but your new partner may be uncomfortable seeing him or her at family gatherings or on holidays. By discussing where and when the ex might be present at a function and setting boundaries with your family, you cut down on the chances for conflict. The in-laws/family need to understand that, at least for a while, the ex-spouse shouldn’t be present when the new family is attending an occasion with the in-laws.
  7. They discussed ways to give the children their own personal space in the new home. When blending families, territory can be a big source of conflict, especially if new children are moving into a home that is already occupied by other children of the new family.
  8. They sat down with the children and reassured them that they were not expected to stop loving their other biological parent, however they do need to show respect to the new step parent. Additionally, they were sure to share with them any changes in the parenting/visitation schedule (the kids need to be respected, too).

Keep in mind that, while you are combining families, these people aren’t really blending: they are forming an entirely new family unit. The kids will always have a loyalty to the parent that is not part of the new household and, if you both have children, the kids will see each other as components of the “other” family that came before. However, with time, patience, and nurturing, combined families can come together to form a great, new family that has strong bonds and a sense of unity.

We Can Help!

It is both rewarding and perplexing to become a blended family! We offer life coaching services to help you understand and meet the challenges of combining a new relationship with a family from a prior one. For more information, call Barbara and Nancy at Elegant Introductions in South Florida at 305-615-1900 or contact us today.

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