Step & Blended Families
Blending a family should be a happy event. A new marriage should be all about partnership and building life together. But all too often blended families are filled with conflict rather than harmony. Instead of compromise, it’s often about who’s right and who’s wrong. And the relationship with the step-children is always going to be strained. It’s no wonder that second marriages with blended families have a higher likelihood of divorce. But if you and your spouse are unified and take everyone’s needs into account, your family could function more smoothly.
Many stepparents are defensive about “their” children. Each has a different upbringing and different parenting experiences and styles. What makes it worse is when the stepparent favors their children or is harder on the stepchildren. Being defensive about your parenting methods, or defending your kid isn’t going to help your marriage. Your kid will be okay. When you put the kid first, your spouse’s needs are compromised. It’s no wonder that this causes marital conflict.
Before you can solve anything you need to remember that your spouse is first, the kids are second. This means that both of you need to sit down together and talk. Take each other’s concerns and needs into consideration. Brainstorm about solutions to current problems, and only act when you both fully agree. Be partners.
This way, if there is a conflict with the kids, both you and your spouse are united. Instead of hurt feelings and defensiveness, there will be support and love for each other and for all your children. And when something does come up, discuss it away from the children.
If the adults are fully united, then the children are more likely to “blend” together and form friendships. But children often aren’t going to be “okay” with a new household, nor will they be “okay” with new siblings. The kids need help to adjust to this new atmosphere.
If you are keeping the house and your spouse is moving in, be sure to talk to your children about the new living arrangements. Listen to their concerns and opinions. Moving another child into their bedroom without very much talking to them about it will leave them feeling unimportant, and it’s not likely he or she will get along with the new roommate.
Also, be sure to let the children know that they can still talk to their biological parent confidentially. With a new step-parent, they may feel that they can’t share everything that they are feeling or thinking with their parent without having to share everything with the new step-parent. Keep the relationships strong so the kids won’t feel alienated from either biological parent or stepparent.
Also do not to try to replace your stepchildren’s biological mother or father. Don’t try to replicate how he or she disciplines them. Stay to your and your spouse’s own disciplinary style, and don’t worry about getting your stepchildren to “like” you or “respect” you right away. They’ll build a relationship with you in their own way and time.
Blending families will always be a challenge. But the reward is great. Building new relationships with your stepchildren is a blessing, and becoming a great team with your spouse will help your love grow deeper and stronger. Family, in whatever form, is worth the struggle and is worth the sacrifice.