By Piyali Syam, Editor – Google Author
You’ve found the love of your life – maybe even set the date! But you’ll be bringing more than simply a ring to the wedding. When you and your spouse-to-be make your vows, you’ll be making them not just to each other; your children from previous marriages are part of this commitment too.
Taking care of your own family is hard enough. How will you take care of someone else’s? Will everyone get along? Will you ever truly feel like a ‘real’ family? Here are some tips for blending families – with love, and with ease.
Tips for Blending Families #1: Start as ‘Just Friends’
If it took you a while to adjust to your divorce, you likely know how challenging the experience was for your kids. In the same way that romantic relationships benefit from starting off as friendships, it’s best to initially broach the topic of a new romantic partner gently.
Introducing your partner as a friend relieves both of you from any high expectations your children may have, and allows your children to meet him or her with a more open mind. Allow them to get to know your partner as a friend, and his or her children as friends.
Further down the line, when the time comes, this decision will help make the transition from family friend to new step-parent much smoother.
Tips for Blending Families #2: Make Compromises
You’ve lived under two roofs and are now making the transition into one. Whose house do you pick? Depending on the ages and circumstances of your children, this can be an easy transition or one fraught with tension.
Discuss the situation openly with everyone involved. Take into account convenience, finances, space, but also individual preferences. If you move into your partner’s house, make every effort to ensure that your family will feel at home there.
This might entail remodeling your children’s rooms. Or maybe you might consider moving into a new home entirely and embarking on a fresh start together. In fact, this solution might be the most comfortable for all concerned, since it would start out the newly constituted family on an equal basis, without anyone feeling possessive of previous belongings.
Couples who have children with autism have to be especially attentive to their children’s needs, as children on the autistic spectrum may find change difficult.
Tips for Blending Families #3: Recognize the children’s attachment to the Divorced Spouse
Whether your newly constituted family was formed as a result of a divorce or a death, the children will have attachments to the parent who is not with them.
It is important to recognize those attachments and either work with the divorced parent or acknowledge and help the children with their feelings about replacing their lost (dead) parent.
Starting as a friendly adult rather than a replacement parent and being patient usually helps. Acknowledging your partner’s possible difficulty with his or her ex-partner will also help to strengthen your bond with each other.
Tips for Blending Families #4: Be a Team
No matter how it was created, a family is a family. Viewing the family as a unit, rather than a composite of two separate units, is essential when blending families. Work with your partner to learn as much as you can about his or her children, and allow him or her to get to know your family deeply as well.
Perception is key. Regarding everyone as a unified team will minimize potential conflict, and will allow genuine bonds to form within your new family.
Tips for Blending Families #5: Appreciate Your Diversity
Blending families brings with it unique challenges, but it’s also important to recognize that you also have a unique beauty.
Each individual brings his or her own unique viewpoints, life experiences, interests, goals, and personalities to the table. The love between you and your partner has brought together people who may never otherwise have met or formed relationships.
Enjoy and appreciate how the diversity within your family enriches the whole tapestry of your life!
If you need help bringing your new family together, consider step-parent counseling with PARC. Our experienced and compassionate therapists can help you manage the nuances of blending family life. Call us on 212.289.0295 – our offices are open 7 days a week, including weekends.