When you got married, you started your own blended family – yours, and your husbands. So it should come as no surprise that things are even tougher after a divorce or remarriage. The dynamics of step-families are complex, and small family dramas can snowball into relationship disasters.
However, some blended families do manage to find a balance and build solid–not perfect, but solid–relationships with every member of their household. They’ve accepted that step parenting is a bit different from traditional parenting, and have figured out how to build mutual trust and respect with their stepchildren one day at a time. If you want to help your non-traditional crew live and love in peace, check out these 5 things happy blended families know.
1. Relationships take time.
Just because you became a child’s stepparent in the length of time it takes to say, “I do,” doesn’t mean that you have a relationship with that child. Understand that it will take time for your stepchildren to develop a true connection with you, and be patient with them. Likewise, it will take your children from a previous marriage time to develop a bond with your new spouse.
2. Respect is a two-way street.
The best way to develop trust and love in a relationship is to consistently show respect. Our culture is familiar with the idea of children showing respect to adults, but children are people, too, and deserving of respect in their own right. By speaking to everyone in the home with a respectful tone of voice and attitude, and by avoiding sarcasm and harshness, you create a culture where children and stepchildren understand that respect is the standard. You can exercise authority while still showing respect.
3. Co-parenting is a team sport.
You may be divorced from your ex-spouse, but he is still your child’s parent. And if he still shares any custodial rights, you have an opportunity every day to choose peace or choose conflict. For everyone’s sake, choosing actions and words that promote peace and unity in parenting the child you share is the wise course. Working hard to be flexible and communicate well regarding your child’s care and development is the right thing to do.
4. Discipline is different in blended families.
Finding the right balance of authority and love is difficult with any child, but when that child is not your own, you really have to think. Being united with your spouse about the boundaries for the children is crucial, as is consistency. But, even having said that, your relationship with the child is paramount, particularly in the early stages of living together as a blended family.
Finding the right balance of authority and love is difficult with any child, but when that child is not your own, you really have to think.
5. You can’t attribute every difficulty to being a blended family.
Parents in traditional family structures can attest to the fact that parenting is just hard. Period. Even with your biological children and an intact first marriage, some seasons are just difficult. So roll with the punches and realize that this wouldn’t be perfect under any circumstances, and do the best you can with what you’ve got.
What has been the key to success in your blended family?
Dana Hall McCain writes about marriage, parenting, faith and wellness. She is a mom of two, and has been married to a wonderful guy for over 18 years.