So you and your partner have decided to take the plunge and merge your families. It is comforting, to an extent, to know that the -blended family is not as unusual as you might initially think. With a soaring divorce rate, many parents who find love after divorce face this very scenario on a daily basis.
Help is at hand and if you diligently and consistently follow some key rules and guidelines you will create a solid base on which to build a happily merged family. It is important to understand that this is an extremely sensitive time emotionally for both you the parents, as well as the children. Whatever the scenario is i.e. you have children he doesn’t, you both have children etc. the basics remain the same.
Ultimately, you are the adult and they are still the children. It is a given that they will act out at some stage subsequent to the merging. Some children cope better than others and knowing your children’s personalities will aid in your anticipation of any behavioural upsets. Remembering the following important basics will assist everyone in their transition:
Patience – Establishing trust and lasting, loving relationships will take time. Children need the time to learn to trust the -newness of the situation and develop a sense of belonging to the family.
Expectations – You might be thrilled at the idea of moving in with your partner but your children’s expectations might leave a lot to be desired. Curbing your expectations will avoid disappointments and will give everyone in the family an opportunity to, bit by bit, invest time, love and energy into the home.
Be realistic – Understanding from the start that things will not always run smoothly will also go a long way in preventing unnecessary disappointments and hurt.
Communication – Open, honest communication is vital prior, during and subsequent to any family merge. Effective communication has a wonderful way of making children feel secure, important and loved and will therefore help them adjust to their new home and family members.
Love – Children who feel they are loved automatically feel secure and safe. Be careful not to rush this as it should be a gradual process for both parties. If rushed, it could have the opposite effect of the initial intention.
Discipline – Always a touchy subject but one that all parents need to be consistent and firm in. Firstly, the parents need to show a united front when it comes to discipline otherwise children will take the gap and play parents up against each other. Secondly, if you are able to, forewarn the children about the rules in the house and what is expected of them. This will let children know what is expected and will make disciplining any infractions much easier.
Baggage – Let it go! You and your partner need to let go of the past in order to move forward. It does not do any newly merged family any good if old baggage is brought into the home. If this is not possible (maintenance issues etc.), ongoing honesty, communication and understanding will go a long way in increasing the new family’s success rate.
Family Meetings – This is an excellent way to handle family conflicts. It may feel strange in the beginning but once you have had a few of these you will feel more confident in your ability to handle the conflict as well as how to resolve it. Family meetings also provide a platform for children to express their feelings and thoughts and this encourages them to trust the family system.
Above everything else, it is vitally important for you to let your children know that you are happy. A successful blended family will only ever work if your relationship with your partner is cultivated and committed.
– Candice Shelley