How to have a happy blended family: 6 Tips for Stepparenting Success
To help stepchildren feel supported and happy in both of their homes
Does the stress of step-parenting sometimes push you to the edge? Are you worried and upset about the clashes that your new partner is having with your children?
Developing happy and harmonious relationships in any family comes with its challenges, but blending two different families has its own particular bumps and bright spots. Especially when your remarriage includes children from previous relationships, blending families can take adjustment. It can take several years, or more, for stepfamilies to find a groove that is comfortable for everyone.
The early years can be particularly challenging. Not only are new couples getting to know each other and developing their own relationship, but there are also relationships with biological and stepchildren to nurture as well.
How do you make it through those rocky beginnings? What can you do to build a healthy blended family and make a good mix?
What is a blended family?
A blended family or stepfamily forms when you and your partner make a life together with the children from one or both of your previous relationships. The process of forming a new, blended family can be both a rewarding and challenging experience. While you as parents are likely to approach remarriage and a new family with great joy and expectation, your kids or your new partner’s kids may not be nearly as excited. They’ll likely feel uncertain about the upcoming changes and how they will affect relationships with their natural parents. They’ll also be worried about living with new stepsiblings, whom they may not know well, or worse, ones they may not even like.
Some children may resist changes, while you as a parent can become frustrated when your new family doesn’t function in the same way as your previous one. While blending families is rarely easy, these tips can help your new family work through the growing pains. No matter how strained or difficult things seem at first, with open communication, mutual respect, and plenty of love and patience, you can develop a close bond with your new stepchildren and form an affectionate and successful blended family.
Blended family parenting tips
Blended families redefine togetherness in a myriad of ways. Here are tips on how to create a united blended family that includes happy stepparents, stepsiblings, and exes.
#1 Build a positive relationship with your stepchildren
In families that include children from previous romances, it is easy to lose sight of your stepchildren in the crowd. Individual relationships with each child are important for you to maintain; this is your way of showing them love, acceptance and everyday attention.
This is essential in creating a good stepfamily unit. Your relationship with your stepchildren will be affected by the age at which they joined your family and by the dynamics in their home before you got married. Some steps will be easy and some will require patience and understanding.
#2 Be patient as your stepfamily adjusts to new roles, rules and boundaries
Every family member adjusts differently. Be sure to give each person the time he or she needs to adjust to new roles, rules, boundaries and expectations while keeping in mind that they may also need guidance in exploring their own strengths, weaknesses and interests.
#3 Focus on the good things about being a stepparent
Sharing common values with your spouse is oftentimes an important factor that helps build a strong blended family unit. It can be easier for children if both parents share similar beliefs about religion, values, goals for life and ways of disciplining children. This includes discipline styles that are strict or not so strict as well as approaches towards issues such as television watching, video game playing and appropriate clothing choices for children of various ages. Parents should strive for unity rather than uniformity when it comes to rules and discipline in the household.
Love, patience and mutual respect go a long way in helping your stepchildren feel like a part of the overall family. By focusing on individual relationships with each child, you can make all family members of your blended family feel as if he or she is important to you.
#4 Set personal boundaries
Setting personal boundaries can help you maintain peace in your home environment. You will grow more comfortable with the idea as you adjust to your new family and get to know everyone better.
Set aside specific days and hours for individual interaction (games, projects, or outings) with all the children involved in the blended family; this allows you time away from the chaos sometimes associated with being a stepparent. Remind yourself that boundaries are for everyone’s benefit so that everyone gets enough attention.
Remember that there could be times when all the kids will be together at an activity, but spend time alone together as a family on other occasions such as special outings or holidays. Consistency and predictability help keep things running smoothly within the two families by maintaining group playtime or arranging single-child activities; this helps any jealousy over divided time melt away! If excessive arguing occurs between parents while creating household rules and expectations for the step and biological children, step up to join the conversation and offer your opinions and ideas. If you feel that you need to contribute, then do so as a team; this gesture will help bond you with your partner, as well as develop relationships with the children involved in the blended family.
#5 Accommodate personality differences
Each child will have individual personalities based on genetics and life experiences, which will come out during their interactions. Choose individual projects for each child instead of one big project for all of them to work on together. This allows each child to put their own creative touches on a project or activity that is still done with others but done individually, which makes them feel more important!
Allow siblings who enjoy being together alone time periodically during special family outings or group activities so they can reconnect as individuals. Arrange playdates between siblings who don’t get along well; give each other space when they need it and work at getting along in shared spaces like school or extracurriculars.
Encourage bonding by doing things together (such as playing games), even though it’s not right away. Gentle persistence can help siblings begin to enjoy each other’s company. Moderation of time spent together is always a good idea, especially with siblings who have a hard time getting along; put some limits on the frequency of visits between disagreeing siblings to lower stress levels.
#6 Coordinate family activities
When planning family activities and having family meetings, think about how each one will impact the dynamics of the blended family. Create activities that allow everyone to participate; that way, there won’t be any favourites even if two children are very close.
Arrange small group activities that involve all children in the blended family; this offers opportunities to bond with different individuals in the family. Create opportunities for each child and step-parent to communicate their feelings when it comes to blending families. Every family member may run into emotions like fear, anger or sadness during this transition period; find out how they feel and express their own emotions as well.
Pay attention if there seems to be a group dynamic within your blended family instead of individual relationships between everyone involved. This could mean you have formed cliques or groups within the larger blended family instead of outgrowing cliques that existed prior to your own marriage. Work individually on your own as well as with others on solving problems instead of suggesting confrontation; do this for each of your relationships outside of the family as well as within.
Work with the entire extended family to help everyone feel welcome and comfortable. Try not to get too attached to anyone’s child until the whole blended family has become close. If you do, you could become hurt if there is a strain on your relationship with that child later.
No matter what happens during the blending process, remember that all families are unique, which means that there is not just one right way to blend them together. Your efforts will be appreciated no matter what you do because every child needs a loving home!