It is not at all unusual for individuals, be it divorcees or those who have previously been in long-term relationships, to enter into another relationship. Many times, those new unions include children. Blended families can bring so many new experiences as well as a unique set of complications. While the new couple may be completely in love and ready to start fresh, children are not always happy about the changes. Combining two separate families with different traditions and beliefs can bring about confusion and behavioral issues that adults may not be prepared to handle. This, in turn, can make the adults frustrated from the beginning. While statistics say that the divorce rate for second marriages is 60%, keep in mind that you can beat those odds with a little extra effort and knowledge. It will take some time and patience to work through this transition, but you can create your own, unique family. Here are a few guidelines to help you along the way!
1. You and your partner need to be a team. It is important to discuss what roles you will play in the family and what expectations you have of each other and the children. Remember not to set your expectations too high in the beginning. It will take time for your new family to really feel like a family. Children may not like this change at first, so it is important for the adults to be a team and function like one. A foundation needs to be decided by the two of you, and then you need to stick to the family rules and respond as a team. This will probably require some compromise on everyone’s part in order to blend the two families.
2. Be careful how much attention you place on your relationship with your ex, especially if there are still unresolved issues between the two of you. It is important for the children to not be a part of these issues. Let them know you will support their relationship with the other parent. This will help them feel more secure in the new family you are creating. Reassure them they do not have to choose one parent over another.
3. Make the new marriage a priority. In order for blended families to be successful, the marriage has to be an unstoppable one! Take time to reconnect with each other daily, plan date nights, and make intimacy a priority. Remember to give your relationship at least as much attention as you give to the family as a whole.
4. Take time to define your role with your stepchildren. Realize that they may see you as competition towards their parent at first. Allow the children to set the pace for how the relationship progresses between you. The younger the children, the more quickly they will accept you. Older children will need more space and time. Create your own unique relationship that works for each child. Just remember to always insist on respect. The closeness will grow over time.
5. Develop new traditions and routines. Don’t expect your new family to be like your old family. It is ok to keep some of the routine and traditions you had before, but you are a new family and need to start your own traditions that are unique to your new family.
6. Remember that everyone in the family has experienced loss. People grieve and recover in different ways and time frames, so be patient. Don’t hesitate to get help before problems get out of control. Use support systems such as church, friends, and a professional as needed. If things are not going well, the sooner you get intervention, the easier the transition will be.
With some patience, time and a good foundation, blended families can beat the odds and become Unstoppable, Blended Families!
Lori Ann Davis, MA, CRS
Certified Relationship Specialist
Radio Host of “Ask Lori” show every Thursday at 8:30pm