Blending two families, if done the right way, can be a source of great joy and strength. Improperly handled, it can bring enormous pain and misery to everyone involved. Here in this series we are covering the basics. Topics like taking your time, how to approach the issue of discipline and handling the “other” parent are all things we’ve discussed so far, and in this next segment we are moving on to another tender spot – the issue of the home.
It is rare, when two existing families are joined through remarriage, that they purchase a new home. What is far more commonly the case, is that one half of the newly blended family moves into the the other half’s home. While this might make the most sense financially, it can be the cause of a great deal of tension, especially with regard to the children.
Home, Sweet Home
Imagine yourself, a teenager who’s still struggling with your parent’s divorce a few years back, and now one of your parents is getting married again. As if that isn’t bad enough, the new spouse has their own kids that are tagging along for the ride, and you’re expected to share everything with them! And, to rub salt into the wound, there aren’t enough bedrooms in the house for everyone, so you are going to have to share yours with an interloper! Ugh, hideous!
It seems melodramatic, but teens are prone to drama, and are often resentful of change that they can’t control and have no say in. So tread this pathway carefully. If you’re able to ensure that each child gets their own space in the house, that would be ideal. If this means renovating a basement or upgrading an attic, it may well be worth the investment. However, if this isn’t an option, you need to be prepared to handle some of the issues that are likely to come up.
“Residents” vs. “Aliens”
For the children who already lived in this home, it was their home first, and the incoming children may be viewed as “alien invaders”. Whereas for the child just moving in, this doesn’t feel like their home and they may need a long while to settle in among the established “residents” before this feels like home. So be as welcoming as you can if the home was yours to begin with, and as accommodating and respectful as you can if you’re just moving in.
Children need some kind of space and privacy as they grow, but this applies more so to teenagers. If you have to combine bedrooms, try to set it up so that the teens do not have to share rooms. Or, if there is no other way around it, rearrange rooms so that the teenagers have a bigger room that allows for “my side” and “your side”. Also, if they have to share because space is an issue, honor their need to seek out privacy elsewhere, like walking the dog alone, reading in the garden, or even studying at the library.
Give and Take
One of the hardest parts of blending two families is adjusting to living together. Each family has it’s own pre-established routines, habits and problems. Joining up with another family will only exacerbate these for a while, until you all learn to work around each other’s quirks and needs.
So, the best way to make this time as smooth as possible is to encourage communication. Talk out the issues as they come up, so that nothing is left to fester and built resentment. Try to promote the idea of everyone having to participate in a little “give and take”. After all, being flexible and open to change will help a lot during this period of adjustment.
Join us next time for our last installment on this subject, where we will be talking about creating rituals – a necessary part of establishing a new family.