With divorces on the rise in many countries worldwide, there are more and more families consisting of children from previous relationships or marriages. Regular families can be complicated enough; blended and stepfamilies can even be trickier.
As the children involved are going through changes that are different from biological families, they’ll face delicate situations that need to be properly handled. This can be a time of turmoil for them so it’s useful to have these tips in mind:
#1. Learn How To Deal With Resistance
One of the first lessons you’ll learn as a step or blended parent is that it takes time for children to adjust to their new environment. It’s unrealistic to think that the new parents and children will immediately get along.
While this may be the case for some blended or step families, there is a good chance that the children don’t want new parents or siblings. Rather, they want to go back to the way things were or even hope that their biological parents will get back together.
In cases like these, you have to understand that they are not mature enough to immediately understand and accept the things that are happening around them.
More importantly, you have to bear in mind that integration is an on-going, daily process that happens gradually. Thus, you need to take things one step at a time and be on top of new situations as they come up.
#2. Be Mindful Of Their Previous Environments
As said earlier, the children are going through a transition which means that everything familiar to them has now changed. This can be a jarring experience for them, so you have to be familiar with the kind of life they’ve grown accustomed to over the years.
As such, do your best to touch base with your spouse and the children’s other biological parent to gain some insight into their lives before they met you. This includes their daily routines, the rules in the former household and their preferences.
This way, you’ll have a better grasp of the bigger picture and make the transition as smooth as possible for your new children.
Somewhere down the road, you can gradually incorporate new things into your blended or step family’s life. However, it does help to know where the children came from so that they will grow to be more comfortable in their new environment.
#3. Properly Manage Expectations
In any societal unit, misaligned expectations are a major source of conflict. The only way to navigate through these differences is by working together. Granted that you will encounter resistance along the way, you still have to make an effort to make everyone in the family feel that they are part of the same team and need to pitch in to make things work for everyone.
Furthermore, you need to encourage an atmosphere of open communication. All of you are used to a certain way of doing things, so you can’t expect to reach a middle ground without getting your differences out in the open.
More importantly, you can’t be afraid of the inevitable conflict that comes with the process of transition. Growing pains are expected of new families so the only sensible response is to properly manage them.
#4. Show a United Front
The adults need to be a good example to the children since they take cues from the grown-ups. The kind of behavior you show them today will echo in their lives forever.
Thus, all the parents involved must learn how to work together as a team and settle your differences without the children present. This can be a period of chaos, but it doesn’t mean that the children have to witness each and every detail of it.
What they should see is that their biological and step parents are cooperating as best as they can to provide a stable and happy life for everyone.
To make this happen, you and your new spouse need to accept that you’ll have interpersonal conflicts which need to be managed in the same way as say, a bad back or irritable stomach.
You and your partner will have differences when it comes to your principles and values, so you should expect some measure of conflict when it comes to these things.
As long as you have the courage to tackle these things while keeping the children out of it, they will soon adjust to their new lives.
#5. Establish a Sense Of Routine
As mentioned in the previous tip, you have to openly communicate with the other parents from the previous relationships. Once you’ve done this, you can then move on to the next step which is to create a sense of stability for the children.
Communicating with the other parents is not enough. You need to use the information you gained in order to come up with a sensible schedule to help ease what could be a potentially traumatic experience for the children.
Remember that they don’t have the mental and emotional faculties to handle these changes on their own. You can provide a great amount of comfort for them by taking the initiative to create a regular routine that they can stick to.