Advice Column, Parenting

Your Guide To Making Blended Families Work

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Do you fear that you’ve become the evil step-monster? It’s so easy to feel like that, especially with blended families becoming the societal norm. Telling a child what to do, especially when they are not your own, can be tricky business. Yes, children are the gifts that keep giving, but let’s not joke: they can also be crafty little critters and can sometimes put serious strain on a marriage.

When two families come together, things don’t often run smoothly. Between children resisting change, the parents trying to accommodate different personalities and rotating between two different households at any given time, things can become extremely rough.

Some things you may consider when trying to blend families:

Planning for your blended family:

Everything needs planning – absolutely everything. When you and your partner decide to merge your two families, keep in mind that things don’t always go smoothly. Respect is earned, not demanded. Step-sibling relationships can be particularly sticky, especially when alliances are formed. Plan for bonding sessions and make your new family get to know each other.

Lay foundations and set boundaries:

Children do best when routine is not disrupted. To this end, one should strive to keep life as normal as possible, and this is done by laying foundations and setting boundaries. Remember that too much change at once can unsettle children. Find ways that all of you can maintain your routines. Don’t allow ultimatums or manipulation to happen, as this is a dangerous foundation to lay. Conversely, don’t be too harsh – after all, the “you’re not my real mom” argument is infamous for a reason. Also try to limit expectations – you shouldn’t expect to fall in love with other children instantly (and vice versa). These things take time.

Keep all parents involved at all times:

So as not to “step on anyone’s toes” you should strive to maintain a good relationship with your ex, and encourage your new partner to do the same. Ex spouses respect being kept in the loop when it comes to their children, and the kids benefit when there is no animosity between the various parents. In some cases, this can certainly be a very difficult thing to maintain, but civility is free. Court battles, on the other hand, are not.

According to helpguide.org, the following should be observed:

  • Listen respectfully to one another
  • Address conflict positively
  • Establish an open and non-judgmental atmosphere
  • Do things together – games, sports, activities
  • Show affection to one another comfortably

If you are struggling to keep the family together, it may be a good idea to consult with a professional and get some advice on a way forward. It’s not always easy to keep everyone happy, and sometimes you just need a bit of assistance. If a child is expressing particularly excessive anger towards a parent or step parent, if favouring starts to happen and alliances get formed, or members of the family openly avoid each other, seek advice from a psychologist dealing with family matters.

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