With more than half of all marriages ending in divorce, dating has become a whole new animal. More often than not, the people re-entering the dating pool after their marriages end are now adding children to their dating resumes. So it’s not surprising that when two people meet, fall in love and get married, they each have kids. So how do you successfully merge your families? Read on for the important things to consider when blending the broods.
Communicate before you cohabitate
No matter how great the relationships are between you and your new spouse and between the stepsiblings, once it’s time to move in together, things can get (make that will get) tricky. Be prepared. Before you cohabitate, have family meetings. Kids are smart and should be included in the decision making — especially when it comes to things that are going to change their current set-up. If they feel like they are part of the process, they will be less anxious about the unknown.
Not only are families merging, but rules, discipline styles and communication tactics are also coming together. You and your spouse need to come to agreements on how to handle everything from bedtimes to homework to household chores. You are now stepparents to each other’s kids for the first time, and it’s important to have the same discipline approach to both your biological children and your stepchildren. If there is a consistent message for the kids coming from both of you on what’s right and what’s wrong, it will make the transition for the children (and you!) easier. As with anything, it will take time to find your stride.
Check in so they don’t check out
Silence doesn’t mean acceptance. Everyone needs to feel heard, especially a child in a newly-blended family. Regular family meetings are a must. Use them as a time to talk about what’s working and what’s not. What’s been frustrating and what’s been fun? Ask everyone to come up with ideas for how to bond — maybe you make a date with just his kids and vice versa. Bottom line? Be sure you know how every child in the family is feeling.
Be prepared to fail (and that’s okay)
With so many personalities coming together, there’s bound to be some bumps in the road. You and your spouse (and the kids) will make mistakes. If you prepare yourself for the inevitable ups and downs that come along with blending families, you’ll reduce stress, anxiety and disappointment. In the end, what matters most is that you’re all together.
Life vs. fiction
Want more? Check out a great read in the new SheKnows Book Lounge: Another Piece of my Heart by bestselling author Jane Green, a powerful novel that explores the complications of a woman marrying into a ready-made family, and the true meaning of motherhood. Head to our new SheKnows Book Lounge now.