- Family and Parenting
How To Make A Blended Family Work
Rose Colored Glasses
When a couple falls in love and decide to get married, they are often looking at the world through rose colored glasses. Whether they have lost a spouse to death in the past, or gone through a divorce, finding someone to share their lives with is a wonderful, sometimes unexpected, turn of events. Suddenly they're humming through the day with a feeling of joy that they thought was lost forever. The sky's a little bluer, the stars are a little brighter.
Surely their children will share the happiness and newfound joy they're feeling. Sometimes they do, they genuinely like their step-parent-to-be and their future step siblings, and truly want to be a family. Even these best case scenario families will, most likely, have issues to resolve as time goes on. On the other hand, when the kids resent their future step-parent from day one, the challenges can be enormous! Some days can feel hopeless but the sun can be right behind the darkest cloud, waiting to shine through when you need it most.
Yours Mine And Ours
When two families merge there are a number of things to be considered. Where they will live is inevitably going to have to be decided. If the children of the father live with him and will be sharing the blended home, then it's unlikely that either of the original homes will be large enough to accommodate the new, larger family. Having to sell their lifelong home in order to buy this new place for everyone is sometimes a problem for the kids. An understanding attitude on the part of both parents goes a long way toward soothing the pain of this necessary transition.
Family traditions that have been in place their whole lives are a part of what makes kids feel secure. Keeping intact the traditions from each famlly and celebrating them together will serve as an anchor in their ever changing lives. Holidays will bring their own challenges with extended family dinners, gift exchanges, church functions, etc. Memories of the past when holidays were spent with both biological parents can derail even the best intentions of the new step-parent. Patience and unconditional love are necessary even when the child doesn't seem to respond.
When a new baby comes along it changes the whole dynamic of the blended family. Here is this perfect little person that has a connection to all the siblings from both sides. While there will probably be times when they resent all the attention the new baby generates just by existing, most kids will welcome him into their family.
You Are Not My Boss!
Discipline is almost always an area of contention in blended families. When parenting styles differ, things can get really complicated. I've read that a step-parent should never be the one to discipline, that it should all be left solely to the biological parent." The step-parent should be a friend, not a figure of authority" say some experts. I don't agree with this idea unless the kids are close to being adults. Don't misunderstand, I don't feel that a step-parent should immediately start correcting or disciplining the children, they need time to adjust to their new situation.
Complicating things is the fact that kids feel disloyal to their biological parent if they bond with their step-parent. This is especially true if their parent is deceased, but a parent absent because of divorce will sometimes fuel the fires of discontent out of jealousy. A step-parent in this situation should tread lightly when it comes to discipline, Showing genuine concern and being there when needed will help form a trusting relationship. It is also a good idea to let the child know that it's okay to love and miss their absent parent, that you have no intention of trying to take their place, that you're only trying to find your own place in their life.
There are some situations where the step-mom or dad have to be alone with all the children for extended periods of time. In this case, delaying discipline until the biological parent is present is simply not feasible. I recommend that you prayerfully take on the responsibility of discipline. You will almost certainly hear those dreaded words "you're not my boss!" at some point. Calmly explain that you're responsible for them in the absence of their parent and that part of that responsibility is redirecting them when needed. Most children will respond to genuine concern and honesty. That's not to say that they won't rebel from time to time as they test you to make sure you aren't going to change your approach to them. Being consistent is all important when interacting with any child. When that child is a step, it becomes absolutely crucial.
One of the most important things to remember when raising kids in a blended family or a traditional family is for the parents to always be on the same page. Communicating with each other about every situation, then presenting a united front when disciplining will help you avoid being played against each other Even doing the very best you can, you'll still hear, "Mom lets me wear this", "Daddy said I could", "before Mom met you she was a lot more fun', and the inevitable" you don't really love me." The truth is that you don't always start off loving these kids that seem to hate you most of the time. But one day you'll be doctoring a skinned knee or helping with homework and you'll realize that you do love them, deeply and forever. Time passes quickly and before you know it, your nest will be empty. One day you'll get a phone call from the very child who caused you the most grief during childhood, thanking you for always being there. That's when you know that your two families are truly blended into one, forever.