Being a parent is a very involved and often highly pressured situation. But remarrying another parent after a divorce, and blending two pre-existing families into one cohesive unit, can feel like rocket science by comparison.
However, complex and challenging as it may be, blending two families doesn’t have to be a source of overwhelming stress. Approached the right way, merging two families into one can actually strengthen a family and bring a great deal of happiness to both parents. Like most things in life, however, this is easier said than done.
So, how does one achieve this feat? Good question. There are a number of things that you can do along the way to smooth the road. Here is the first of the most important ones:
According to experts, it takes about three to five years for a newly blended family to establish itself. So before you do anything else, realize that this isn’t going to happen overnight. Allow time—and we mean “years” here—for your newly assembled family to adjust and settle in. Know that during this intervening period, while everyone is slowly learning their roles and places in the new family, that there will be rough patches. Adjustments, minor rebellions, and problems.
Children need time to learn to trust you. To discover what kind of person you are going to be when they live with you. And to recover from any heartbreak associated with your marriage to their parent. This may sound strange, but children often harbor fantasies that their parents will get back together one day. So a marriage to another person is, in their eyes, essentially just another way of saying, “Nope, get over it, it’s never gonna happen!”
In addition to any resentment that they may be harboring about your marriage to their parent, or that your kids may be harboring about your marriage to someone else, there is the issue of your recent divorce. If your divorce, or your-soon-to-be-spouse’s divorce, happened in the last few years, chances are, the kids haven’t fully recovered yet. And the older the kids are, the more likely this is to be the case.
Finally, there is the issue of new siblings. A child that was used to being the oldest may suddenly not be the oldest anymore. A child that was used to being the baby of the family may suddenly not be the youngest anymore. Blending step-siblings takes patience while the children work to re-establish their roles and identities within the family.
So understand, going in, that you are not working with a clean slate here. The kids involved, both your own and those of your new spouse, have a lot of things to work through before they settle into this newly blended family. Give them time. Lots of time. And remind them along the way that you too are adjusting and learning right alongside them.
Also, don’t lose heart when things don’t seem to be working out as quickly as you would like them to. People take time to adjust (some more than others) so be patient. In the end, if you stick it out and hang in there, your patience will be rewarded.
Join us next time for the next installment in this series where we will be tackling the sticky subject of discipline. Your future step-children will thank you, we promise!