If you’re in a relationship with someone who has a child or multiple children, one thing is certain: life isn’t like the movies and blended families aren’t always a breeze.
It’s not always easy stepping into a family that has already been made, and the age of the child definitely can be a contributing factor. However, a blended family that finds a way to create togetherness makes happy children, parents, and stepparents. Here are some tips for navigating the sometimes challenging world of blended families.
Love is Always the Rule
The first rule to blending a family is to do everything with love. Some may even say that you love your bonus (step) child more than your own because you are finding unconditional love for a child that isn’t yours. If you plan on pursuing a family with someone who has a child from a previous relationship it is important that you are willing to love, treat, and respect them as your own.
Kids Come First
In the beginning stages of a relationship as a blended family, it is important to remember that you will not come first. Your significant other’s first priority should be caring for their child(ren) and having your support in doing so.
Give Relationships Time to Grow
While some couples may amicably split from each other, that may not always be the case. When children are growing up in two households in which the parents are at odds it may cause them to be uneasy. Adding another adult to the mix may be difficult for them to digest especially when they are older. For infants and toddlers, they may just associate you with another face.
Either way, it is important to build the relationship with your bonus child with respect. Also, create the understanding that in no way are you attempting to take the place of their parents, but to give them a bonus parent that loves them just as much.
Respect the Other Parents
Whenever possible, it’s important that you form a cordial relationship with the other parent. We have seen stepparents and exes become best friends and what a beautiful scenario that is. As everyone turns to TikTok for quarantine comedy, there are also heartfelt videos of stepmoms and moms being close as well as current husbands and ex-husbands spending time. Boy, I know we wish that could be everyone’s normal in a blended family but it’s not. At the very least, be respectful. The child should never hear you speak ill of their other parents. It can be a hard task if the other parent isn’t as willing as you but hang in there!
Don’t be a “Fixer”
When it comes to discipline and household rules, you should follow whatever the biological parents have in place. Over time, you two will create rules together especially if you have a child together. However, it’s not really up to you to decide how they get disciplined or what rules to follow and vice versa if it’s your child. You are not the “fixer” when entering a partnership with someone who has a child and vice versa.
Don’t come in trying to prove your authority—it’s your job to be present in the child’s life first.
“Don’t come in trying to prove your authority—it’s your job to be present in the child’s life first.”
Learn about their interests and what they like to do. Be invested in them as a person, and not learning the flaws as a means to fix something you didn’t even break. It’s so easy to find something wrong with the way your stepchildren are being parented, or even with their personalities. You are like an intruder to them. Don’t make it harder on yourself or the relationship you are foraging with your partner by also highlighting their imperfections. Instead, praise the positives about them.
Communicate Openly and Honestly
Entering a family can also be scary for an adult. Naturally, we put our guards up when entering the unknown and as a result, we’ll harbor our emotions before we speak up. So, it’s incredibly important not stay quiet about how you’re feeling.
Open and honest communication and dialogue is a great relationship builder for both you and your partner and the children. Tell your partner if you’re feeling overwhelmed or if you’re not quite sure how to assume your new role. Honestly, it’s okay to tell the kids the same thing.
Clearly, the nature of a conversation with a child won’t be the same depending on the age of the child(ren), but the point is not to assume that kids aren’t aware. Oftentimes, people assume children are clueless or treat them as though they can’t handle certain conversations. It’s okay to say to a child, “I’m not trying to take your mom’s place but I love you,” or “I’m a little nervous when I’m around you because I want you to like me.” That earns you much more respect and communicates that you are not trying to take their parent away from them.
Remember: there are no rules to a blended family and every family blends differently. There are so many factors that can determine relationships. However, when creating a family with someone who has children it is important to think of everyone involved. The ties that bind us can be so strong if everyone thinks of each other and sees the bigger picture.