Making A Blended Family Work
There are scads of available articles, white papers, and videos by child psychologists, marital advisors, and coaches that provide information, education, and just a wee bit of inspiration as you find yourself about to embark on a serious or perhaps even not so serious relationship with someone that also has children.
As if having your own children is not often hard enough?
Sometimes the thought of adding more people into your circle can be stressful and complicated. But, I can assure you that IT CAN WORK and work better than you ever would have dreamed.
Don’t get me wrong – blending families has its challenges. However, I can tell you from not only my professional experience as a family lawyer attorney, but through my own personal experience, that a happy and thriving blended family can be accomplished, and can be amazing for you and your children.
Here are just a few suggestions:
Respect Your Partner's Parenting Style
Everyone parents differently and there’s a distinct possibility that you may not agree with your partner’s parenting style. It can become a source of ongoing disagreement, and you have to choose your battles wisely. Decide whether your disapproval about how your partner handles certain issues is worth potentially sabotaging your relationship. Of course, it depends entirely on the situation. How your spouse interacts with your child may be an issue worth dealing with, while your displeasure for how your partner keeps his closet may be an issue worth shelving (pun intended). You and your partner must agree that while there may be differences in style, there is also mutual respect and love for each other and the children, and the understanding that these issues will not be a relationship deal-breaker.
The Kids Already Have a Mom or Dad
Your role as a step-parent or significant other is pretty easy – be a friend. You don’t need to discipline. Your partner and his/her ex already should have that under control. Also, nothing is more confusing to a child than to have multiple adults assuming the role of Mom or Dad, especially when there is “corrective” guidance or discipline that must be given. It’s best to be tactful and sensitive to the child’s natural confusion when they are faced with different parental figures in their life. You can be their friend and confidante but don’t forget that when they’re not living with you, they’re going home to their other parent. That can be confusing in itself; don’t make it more difficult by overstepping your role.
Keep It Simple
There’s an old saying “keep it simple stupid” and in the case of a blended family, truer words were never spoken. Try to not complicate the already complicated situation. Maintain a good sense of humor, remember that it’s not all about you, and that the sense of family and security felt by the children is the most important thing to consider with every action you take. It’s not that difficult if you act from a spirit of acceptance and love.
No one is saying it’s easy and, of course, there will be bumps in the road. However, the opportunity to share your life with a partner you love makes it well worth the ups and downs of blending your two households.