No Less Love
Remind everyone, at least daily, that there is no less love in a blended family. Everyone who was a valued family member before the “merge” is still a valued family member. Each loved member of the family is still loved. A blended family provides the opportunity for more love. There are now more people involved, since the marriage, who care about each other and will grow together as a family.
Strange feelings are O.K.
The kids did not pick your new spouse. You love your new partner, but the kids will need some time getting to know this person. It’s O.K. if they have some strange feelings, even confusing thoughts- wondering if they are going to like this new person. Let them take their time and get to know your spouse. Remind them to be respectful and friendly, and then give them some space.
A new stepparent does not replace anyone in the family. The children still have their biological parents, with the addition of a new stepparent. This stepparent is to be respected, as an adult, but does not take the place of either of the biological parents. There are no competitions. Children sometimes feel that the new stepparent in the blended family is a new enemy- a competitor for them. The new stepparent may feel the same way about the kids- that these step kids are someone who takes time away from their new spouse. Tell everyone that there are no competitions and no threats. Relax and get to know each other.
It’s O.K. to Like Your New Stepparent
Sometimes kids believe that liking their stepparent means that they are disloyal to their biological parent. Reassure your child that this is a different relationship, and loving your parents has nothing to do with getting to know and liking this new stepparent.
Adults Are Still in Charge
All adults, biological or stepparents, are still the ones in charge. It’s best to not have any secrets between you and your biological kids, that you keep from your new spouse. Present yourselves as a “united front” to the kids. If they question you, and you don’t have an answer ready (ex: a new family rule) tell them that you’ll think about it and get back to them. Discuss all issues, in private, with your new spouse.
House Rules Still Apply
Some parents believe that the kids have been through so much- divorced parents, remarriage, new homes, etc. that it’s time to back down on the discipline. Children appreciate structure. Now is not the time to take the structure away, during all of these changes. Be consistent, keep house rules, develop new rules for your new family, and treat all children, biological and step children- the same.
Keep Your Marriage at the Center of the Family
Sometimes the reason our previous marriage failed is because kids were in the center of the relationship. Remember this mistake and keep you and your spouse in the center of this new family. Set aside time, each day (even if it’s just a few minutes at bedtime) to be alone with your spouse. Schedule date nights 2-4 times a month, when the children are not invited, and focus on your marriage. Children thrive in a stable and strong marriage.
You can survive the first 90 days of a blended family.
Stay rested, as objective as possible, and keep loving every member of your family!
Shirley Cress Dudley is a licensed professional counselor with a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Counseling, and a master’s degree in Education. She has a passion for helping blended families grow strong and be successful, and her book, Blended Family Advice, has been touted as the ultimate must-read for couples contemplating or undergoing such change.