Divorce happens to approximately half of Americans, and about seventy-five percent of those who do divorce will eventually remarry. Many have children from their previous relationships and navigating the complexities of a blended family can be overwhelming. In order to have a smooth blending of new family members, there must be excellent communication, fun and realistic expectations.
To help alleviate stress in the new blended family, here are a few tips to navigate the new situation.
Nurture your marriage and learn to communicate
According to a study of more than 50,000 step-family couples, maintaining fun in marriage is the number five predictor of a high-quality step-couple relationship. Good communication and conflict resolution skills were the number two and three predictors of successful remarriages.
Keep your perspective
This is new for everyone, seek understanding and don’t force people to blend, as it takes time. It may even take years for your family to unite, but it’s better than causing a lot of frustration by moving too quickly. Be patient with the process and have a “slow-cooker” mentality.
Help the Kids
Create a personal relationship with your step-child that has nothing to do with your spouse. Allow them time to warm up, and remember you are “the adult” and a pivotal person in that child’s life.
Keep some old traditions (for the kids), but also begin to create new ones within your first year. If you want to help form a family identity in your home, put intentional thought and effort into creating new family traditions. Traditions tell us who we are and where we belong.
Be a Team
It’s helpful if parents and stepparents can seek consensus in household rules and how to cooperate. Have lots of parenting meetings. In the first year, it’s a great idea for stepparents to focus on building relationships with the children. Be sure to move at their pace, not yours.
Anticipate Bumps in the Road
Step-family life can be challenging, so don’t expect perfection. Try not to overreact and always put love and patience at the forefront for your efforts.
Keep your visitation schedule predictable
Give children continued access to the other home. Forcing kids to lose time with the other household will inadvertently invite kids to resent your relationship. Stepparents need to communicate a “no threat” message to the other biological parent. They need to know that you understand your role as a new person in their life who will never try to replace them. This message helps the other parent not to feel intimidated by your involvement with their children. Hopefully, it will also increase their openness to your role as a stepparent.
Take the Couple Checkup
The checkup provides an accurate view of your relationship and gives suggestions for strengthening your marriage. It not only tells you where you are and helps you decide where you want to go, but it gives you directions to get there. You can access the Couple Checkup and other resources at Smart Step-families.
Blending families can feel like an overwhelming task, but the positive results can be the reward of adding new connections and love to your home and life. Family is whatever you make it, so take the time to make a good healthy transition and embrace new people who can add to your life. You can never have too many people to love.