Tips for Blended Families

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It is no secret that attempting to blend families is hard work and when you are a parent who has a new spouse it can be easy to forget that there are more than two people with a vested interest in the relationship. Every family faces challenges whether it is blended or not, but if you are facing difficulties with the new family dynamic here are some tips to bear in mind.

Keep lines of communication open

Honest conversations should be encouraged between all parties so that each family member feels comfortable to express their feelings, even if they are negative in nature. It is important to ensure that children feel heard and reminded that their feelings are valid, and unless they are able to verbalise their thoughts on the situation the problems can manifest and continue.

Stick to your routine

Your new relationship should not come at the expense of your existing relationship with your children. Routines are incredibly important to growing humans and can set them up for success later in life.

By putting your own, new routine before theirs you are sending a message that their time is not as valuable as it once was. There is no reason why you cannot create new traditions and rituals with the step-parent and their own children (if applicable), but any existing routines should remain where practicable.

Consider differences between your children

Children of all ages will respond differently to the prospect of a new step-parent or step-siblings and the dynamics are often determined by the age and genders of the children.

Children under 10 tend to adapt more quickly and are generally more accepting of step-parents, whereas adolescents aged between 10 and 14 struggle the most with adjusting to a blended family dynamic. Teenagers over the age of 15 may withdraw from blended family life.

Step-children tend to prefer affection in the form of praise or compliments over physical affection, like hugs and kisses from their step-parent so try not to be too physical unless it is initiated by the children.

Remember that all parents go through this

Blended family or not, all parents will experience challenges with their children. You are not alone but there will be times when you feel you are doing nothing right. Try not to take it personally as it is rarely about you and more about the child themselves. Keep an eye out for signs that mean their lashing out or withdrawing behaviour could be linked to something more serious, like depression.

Don’t expect to be sided with

In cases where the step-parent does not have children, they should not expect to be sided with if a conflict occurs between the step-parent and their spouse’s children and expecting the biological parent to choose between their partner and their children can cause stress.

In this instance, the step-parent should trust their partner to discipline their own children or discuss what disciplinary action the biological parent would allow the step-parent to take and under what circumstances.

Accept the things you cannot change

Like any family, some blended families will meld with ease, some will clash completely, and others may coast along with a few problems. Accepting that you can only control your own behaviour and not that of others will help immensely. Children are far more likely to remain loyal to their biological parent, so if you are the step-parent in this situation, it can often be easier to accept that you may never be viewed as an equal no matter what you do. Learn to pick your battles and try not to take offense if a situation arises where you do not have equal footing to your partner.

Lead by example

Although children are more likely to listen to their biological parent, they will still look their step-parent as a role-model, even if they do so sub-consciously. With this in mind, new step-parents should be careful of any behaviours they previously exhibited that are no longer suitable to display in front of children. New step-parents should be particularly careful of the way they speak about their spouse’s ex (i.e., the other biological parent of their step-children) as this can sway younger children into changing their thoughts on the parent who is being bad-mouthed or make older and more cognitive children resent the new step-parent for speaking about their parent negatively. For more information about making blended families work, please contact one of our experienced family lawyers on 4052 0790. 

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