Blended family success is not a guarantee, but can be improved when parents open the doors of communication with children and put their new marriage at the center of the stepfamily. When two adults meet and fall in love the natural path is to marriage. If one or both adults have children from previous relationships they are creating a blended family or stepfamily. Though these adults may be madly in love, the feeling may not be mutual with stepkids who may in fact not like the new stepmom or stepdad at all, and may even feel threatened by their presence. Blended family success is achieved when parents realize its unique challenges and talk with children about concerns and expectations.
All you need is love!
Blended family success is supported when parents communicate that the love they had for their children before the remarriage has not diminished by the addition of the new stepparent and stepkids. When parents remarry, children may feel as if the parent does not love them as much as they love their new partner, and jealous feelings can emerge. When parents reach out every day to let their child or children know they are loved and valued, they no longer feel a need to compete in the stepfamily for affection. Stepmoms and stepdads can also remind children that there is enough love in their hearts to share with them, and that they hope it will help them grow as a family. Blended family success is an opportunity to give and receive more love.
Who is this stranger in my home?
Blended family success is a process that takes time and patience. Adults have had time to get to know one another, but children sometimes have not had that same sort of relationship building during the adult courtship. Remarriage can feel strange and confusing to stepkids. Stepkids may think they are in competition with the stepmom or stepdad, and view that person as the enemy. Giving children time to adjust to this new and sometimes uncomfortable situation is important. They should always be respectful and friendly, but also need space to get to know the new spouse. Stress to stepkids that stepfamilies are not about competition, and stepmoms and stepdads are not replacing a biological parent, or taking a biological parent away. As well, stepparents are not competing with a spouse for the affections of stepkids. Blended family success will flourish in a stepfamily that relaxes into the new relationship and gets to know one another.
Structure essential to blended family transition
Success in a blended family is not guaranteed, especially if the adults do not require that the children respect them. Every adult in the home, including step parents, should be respected by the children.Establishing family rules and discussing these rules with biological children and stepkids will let everyone know the stepfamily expectations and show children a united front in your remarriage. Adults, regardless of whether they biological parents, or stepmom and stepdad, are always in charge of children. Secrets between parents and children or stepparent and stepkids can be destructive, so always keep your spouse in the loop when it comes to rule making and rule breaking. Sometimes, parents may feel children have already experienced huge upheaval with divorce, and hesitate to put more rules on them. This is a mistake. Children thrive with structure, especially when there are big changes, and will appreciate establishing and maintaining a routine in this time of transition. Blended family success begins with parental leadership.
Marriage is the heart of the family
The path to blended family success is not smooth, but a strong marriage that is nurtured and stable will help smooth the path. Marriages that put children at the center of the family are not often successful because couples lose focus of the loving relationship that created the family in the first place. In our busy lives it is easy to forget a spouse needs to be shown as much attention and love as the children. Even spending a few minutes alone every night before bed, talking about your day or going over plans for the next day, will contribute to a closer relationship and strengthen the stepfamily. Taking two or three nights a month alone with your spouse and going on a date night will even further add to the bond that you are building through remarriage. Children and stepkids thrive within a stable and strong marriage. Blended family success ultimately hinges on whether or not your marriage remains at the center of the stepfamily.
Blended family success is achieved when biological parents and stepmoms or stepdads open their hearts and keep open the lines of communication with stepkids. Stepkids and biological children in a stepfamily need to know they are loved and not in competition with stepmoms and stepdads. Establishing rules and maintaining structure helps stepkids know adult expectations and gives them a sense of order in a sometimes difficult and uncomfortable situation. Putting a marriage first, with loving adults at its center, is the key to building a stable and strong stepfamily, and can make a difference in whether or not you bring about blended family success.
The Blended and Step Family Resource Center has resources to help blended and stepfamilies, including licensed professional counselors who offer coaching and counseling to blended and stepfamilies, as well as those engaged to be married and become blended families. Founded in 2006 by internationally known author and conference speaker, Shirley Cress Dudley, the center focuses on the need for effective counseling and other resources aimed at helping blended and stepfamilies become strong and successful.