Any new marriage has its hurdles. But when there are children from previous marriages and/or relationships, the parents must learn how to integrate the old with the new.
Blending a family isn’t easy but it’s doable.
We, like many other couples attempting to blend a family, figured that since we were all lovey dovey and the kids were kids, that they would transition easily and willingly.
Oh, we were living in a fairy tale without a happy beginning or middle.
“In reality, children are often confused and have contradictory emotions about the new family setup,” says Dr. Anne Brennan Malec, a clinical psychologist, marriage and family therapist, and author of the book “Marriage in Modern Life: Why It Works, When It Works.”
Frustration can set in when the union fails to create instant family unity. For many of years, I was frustrated. My husband was frustrated. The kids were frustrated.
We even started parenting separately. This area was the only area, to this day, that we weren’t on one accord.
We failed to properly merge the kids during the dating stage & foolishly thought everyone would be happy to be one big family.
Everyone needs time to adjust and it’s up to us, as the parents (and co-parents), to develop strategies for making the blended family work.
But, as with many things in life, patience mixed with a trial-and-error approach can get you where you need to be.
I don’t wish our rocky road on anyone and especially a new marriage.
We had no clear guidance on how to merge our families. So, for years, we parented our kids separately. I was responsible for all things involving my girls and my husband dealt with his son and daughter.
I didn’t interact with them and he didn’t interact with my kids.
HOW FUCKING FOOLISH WAS THAT?
We did this for years….yep! YEARS!!!!
We foolishly created an environment that included my husband and I operating as husband and wife but we failed to become unified on the parenting front. We did not intermingle the kids or our thoughts on what’s best for them.
He had his kids. I had mines. There was no overlapping.
Don’t operate in your marriage and family like we did! Instead, I want to give you these tips to help you merge your family. I wish we had known these tips, even one would have saved us some heartache.
• Manage expectations. When creating a blended family, managing your expectations will decrease the odds of being disappointed, Dr. Malec says. Discuss your ideas for how the transition will go and set a reasonable bar for how you, your spouse, the children and any former spouses will respond to the new arrangement. Plan for a slow transition into this “new normal.”
• Keep communications with former spouses cordial. Some relationships with ex-spouses run more smoothly than others. Ideally, former spouses would communicate respectfully and keep in mind the best interests of the children. That doesn’t always happen, though. If an ex-spouse gets under your skin too much, you might try self-soothing techniques such as meditating, exercising, taking a walk or journaling. You may also want to consider seeing a therapist. “It will benefit your current relationship if you can minimize the conflict with a former partner,” Dr. Malec says.
• Nurture your romance. With so many challenges balancing parental and relational responsibilities, you will need to give extra effort to setting aside kid-free time. “Making time for just the two of you is critical to the success of your relationship,” Dr. Malec says. “Without proper attention, the new relationship can drop down the priority list as you get caught up in smoothing the transition for the children, creating a blended home and growing comfortable with your role as stepparent.” Make it a point to prioritize dates, whether over coffee, lunch, dinner or during a walk together.
“Forming a blended family is a long-term process, and it is reasonable to expect some pushback from children, who had no voice in your choice to marry,” Dr. Malec says.
Gaining bonus kids is a blessing but it’s a blessing that requires patience, love, and acceptance from the beginning.
[Tweet “Gaining bonus kids is a blessing but it’s a blessing that requires patience, love, and acceptance from the beginning.”]
If you and your spouse decide from the onset to operate as one family unit, which means including the kids in everything, many of the blending family hiccups you will not experience.
I know once we got our shit together, it was better, not only for the kids, but the tension between my husband and I disappeared.
What steps are you taking or took to blend your family with minimal hiccups?