Submitted by Shirley Cress Dudley
1- You and your spouse have clear house rules that apply to all blended family members
Yes, this means that house rules don’t change when you are tired, or your spouse is out of town. Both biological children and stepchildren all follow the same rules. It really does help when the parents also follow the same rules. (Why does Dad get to eat in the living room when the rest of us can’t?)
2- You hear laughter at meals
The kids are joking and comfortable enough to be a little silly at times. Even if some of your kids are more outgoing, watch your introverted children respond by smiling to the antics of the louder children.
3- All children are treated fairly and equally by their biological parent and their stepparent
The children are watching to see if you really love everyone the same, and will keep “tabs” on how you are doing!
4- Your child is willing to introduce their stepparent to their teachers or friends
It’s awkward at first, but smile and praise your kids (later) when they are able to introduce their new stepparent and other members of their blended family to their friends and teachers.
5- Your stepsiblings talk to each other when they are in the house together
With a newly blended family, silence may be the loudest noise in your home. As kids become more used to their new family, they will gradually talk with their new stepsiblings. Don’t automatically jump into the conversation. Let them talk amongst themselves without realizing that you and your spouse are listening and rejoicing over their conversational attempts.
6- You have more than one photo in your house with all members of your blended family in it, and everyone is smiling
I know some of you are laughing, but a newly blended family does NOT photograph well together. There are lots of frowns, pouts, crossed arms and lowered heads. Take candid shots of your kids, while they are enjoying an activity. This is a great way to expose them to photos of your new family. Display these candid shots around your home. It takes a little while, but photographing your family, as a whole, is an important step for all. You are stating to the world that this is my family, and I’m proud of it.
7- One of your kids walks in with a bag full of snacks and says “want some?” to one of his stepsiblings
It’s just a common courtesy, but really important. Your children are acknowledging that their stepsiblings are someone they care about, and are willing to share with these new family members.
8- You have new family traditions that your blended family has developed on their own
Both families came into the new blended family with memories of their own traditions, especially around the holidays. Take time and share these memories and develop slightly different traditions of your own. Make sure all children have a part in the development of these traditions.
9- A visiting child tells her parent that she had fun and asks, “When is the next time I visit you?”
When the visiting children feel at home, during their brief visits, and are looking forward to the next one, you have truly made some progress. Make sure each child has some personal space of their own, when they visit. Separate bedrooms are great, but not always practical. If you can keep a few personal items in their space (and make sure these items aren’t touched in their absence) this creates a sense of familiarity and also ownership, when they arrive for their visits.
10- The kids share a joke or an issue with each other
It may sound strange, but a group of kids teaming up against the parents is a sign of a successful blended family. It’s O.K. to disagree, but seeing your children and stepchildren unite on any topic is quite exciting to watch and a wonderful accomplishment in your blending.
It’s Worth It!
Blending two families together can be quite a challenge, but is worth the effort. Seeing your two families come together as one unit is a fantastic accomplishment. Not easy- but is it doable, with patience and persistence.
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.