The Challenges of Step-Parenting and Raising Blended Families
The number of step-families are on the rise particularly due to the fact that 65% of remarriages include children from previous relationships. Blending two families is not easy and it creates many challenges in addition to the "normal" challenges of raising a family.
Although it is not easy you should not get discouraged. Changes to the family structure requires time, patience, and love in order for you to have a happy, healthy blended family.
Deciding to blend your families is an exciting time for both you and your partner, but most children will not feel the same happiness and excitement that you feel. The children will often be worried about the upcoming changes, living with new siblings, and how their relationship will be affected with their natural parents.
You can help ease this transition by making small changes and taking things at a slower pace. When you take your time you allow for everyone to get used to each other and you will have a better chance at having a happy family.
"The only steps in our home lead to the upstairs."
My sister shared this quote with me, she had heard it from a woman she worked with and it has always resonated in my mind when thinking of my blended family.
Step-Family Names and Titles
When two families are blended together the question of what the child should call the step-parent arises. This is something that the whole family needs to discuss together. A child should not be forced to call a step-parent "Mom or Dad" even if the other biological parent is not in the picture, because the other parent may become involved in the child's life somewhere down the line.
If you do decide to have your child call their step-parent "mom or dad" be sure to discuss it with the biological parent. They may have opposing feelings and they may not want to share that special title with someone else in their child's life. By discussing this in advance you can prevent many problems that may have arisen from sharing the title.
You might also want to consider how you will introduce the children to others. I do not like to use the title stepson when I am introducing my children. I like to introduce them as "my four children" because I feel by saying "these are my three children and my stepson" I am singling out my stepson and making him feel as not that important. I just feel that this is something that should be decided on before the situation arises.
Respect and Discipline
Respect for each other is important within any family background. But when are blending families it may be hard to accomplish. The best advice for achieving respect inside you household is to insist that every person respects one another. You can not force them to like each other but you can insist that they respect each other.
Disciplining children in a blended family can also be a struggle if not handled in an appropriate manner. A great way to create a path for easy disciplining is to sit down together as a family and create family rules along with the consequences for breaking those rules. Some families choose to let the biological parent discipline their child in the beginning and then allow the step-parent to discipline the child only after the two are completely comfortable with each other. The choice of how disciplining should be handled is your decision on what you think will work best with your new family. Remember to be consistent with which ever route you decide to follow.
The Other Parent
Blended families work best when all parents are involved. You should make it clear to your children that both biological parents still love them and that their new step-parent is not a replacement for their biological parent.
All parents involved should have open communication with each other because they all play an important role in the child's life. You should never speak badly about a parent or step-parent to the child because this can be confusing and may also cause them to have confusing and conflicting thoughts about the situation. You do not have to become "best" friends with an ex, but you do need to develop some sort of civil relationship for the sake of the child.
If conflict does arise between a biological parent and a step-parent it should be handled in a positive manner. You should be able to work past differences by talking things over. Never put a child in the middle of an argument because it may make them feel as though they need to pick a side.
Love within a step-family is different. When you have a child you are both instantly bonded and you love your child from the first second you lay your eyes on them. When you blend your family and become a step-parent the love you will have between you and your stepchild is a completely different kind of love. You will not love your stepchild overnight and you will not have that unbreakable bond between you. The love and bond you experience grows with each day. I feel it is special because it grows and grows as time passes and the bond between you becomes stronger and stronger. At times it may not feel so easy, but as time passes it becomes easier. It takes time to create a strong bond with a stepchild and it is very rewarding when the both of you achieve it.
Rewards of Step-Parenting
Step-Parenting is very rewarding and you should not become discouraged when faced with the challenges that arise. It can be rewarding in many different ways depending on your situation. If you do not have biological children step-parenting will give you the oppurtunity to share your life with child and help to shape his character for the future. If you both have children you will offer them opportunities to build bonds together that only siblings can share.
I feel it is rewarding for the children the most because it allows them to be loved by more than two "parents". It may also give them a large family with more siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc.