Living in Harmony with Your Partner’s Kids (Blended Families)

Written By: Family Relationship Dynamic, Inc.

Please Help! My new love has children!

You are now in a situation where your new spouse is a single parent who may be divorced, widowed or separated; and you are considering having a blended family. You are thinking of ways on how your second marriage will become harmonious as you form a lasting and loving relationship with his or her children, and cope with blended families. Here are effective tips that will truly work things out:

1. Evaluate your commitment and understand the implications of your decisions. Do you find yourself ready to take on a ‘ready-made’ family? Do you think your lifestyle, temperament, career, health and values suit the responsibilities and time that the children will require? Are you ‘insensitive’ enough to face questions, comments and negative stories that people who have influence over the children may encourage them to believe in? Above all however, are you equipped to commit to their parent? In all possibilities they will already have gone through a lot of pain, so if you are not willing for the long-haul, think very cautiously before they become too close to you and then have their hearts broken again.

2. Make your entrance little by little. If your partner’s kids are used to having their parent to themselves, and then this stranger (you) is around all the time, they may get confused. If they are teenagers, they are likely to view you warily and be protective of their parent or jealous that you are taking them away from him or her (in their eyes). Simply by always being there may cause a sudden change, so step in cautiously; and definitely don’t just ‘move in’ even if the kids are very young. Start off by joining your partner on the occasional outing, don’t be over familiar with them, or your partner (even think about whether you will hold hands in front of them at first), and most of all take time to build a rapport with them, showing genuine interest in who they are and what they are interested in. Let them get to know you, as you get to know them.

3. Avoid all forms of pretense. At first, it may be proper for you to describe yourself as their parent’s friend, but don’t ever lie to the children because this may become the root from which distrust at all levels may spring from. Let them know (gently) that you go out on dates and care for their parent.

4. Conform to the family’s way of life. There is a good reason why it is known as ‘Blended’ in the first place. Try to blend in by not making too many changes, demands or new rules until you have had a chance to see how the family works together, as they operated fine before you got there. Be sensitive, creating resentment is going to set you back a long way. Most issues occur unintentionally or without malice, but nevertheless it takes a long time to recover from. Try to never disagree with your new partner in front of their children, punish them yourself or show disrespect for their traditions, values, member of their family, especially their other biological parent. Pick your battles over really serious issues, but stay philosophical about what’s trivial. Over time you can start to suggest different ways, or bring your own values into the mix, but don’t rush it.

5. Give them space. It can be assumed that before your coming, the youngsters may have the singular attention of their Dad or Mum, so they may not be comfortable with the idea of sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings with a new being in their parent’s life. Give them space, let them stay in their rooms if they are sad but don’t want to talk, find an excuse to leave the house if you realize they want to talk to their biological parent, and don’t assume you are welcome at school counselling sessions or parent/teach night. Wait to be invited into their space, their friends and their hearts.

6. Be willing to go with the flow. Young people may be very harsh with their words especially when uttered at a time of extreme emotion! Here, the thick skin is needed. Don Miguel Ruiz in his four agreements stresses that Agreement #3 is ‘Don’t take it personally.’ Never a truer word said than in the relationship between step-parents and their step-children. If the child is being personal, then be the adult who would mildly but definitely clarify why their conduct is improper.

7. Discuss issues such as rules, discipline and conflict with your partner privately. If ever you need to discuss the relationship and the interaction between your partner, yourself and your stepchildren, do so in private. You can choose to talk when they are away or when you are out together without them. Kids have an inherent sense of when you are talking about them or something that concerns them. They have a mysterious way of appearing at the wrong time, or are listening in yet miss the main essence of the discussion. In case you find yourself getting into an argument with your partner about these matters, you will end up with more issues.

8. Do everything in moderation. Do not overdo anything especially in forms of financial, physical, and verbal gestures toward your partner’s children. Don’t pamper them especially if you have your own children, over compensating or treating your step children differently will lead to glitches in your own side of the family. Always treat them with kindness, love, care and respect. Allowing them to have their own way or letting get away with improper behavior will only lead to problems later.

9. Don’t make negative comments about ‘the other’ biological parent. Temper the use of your tongue when it comes to the matters about the other natural parent. Any view, snide remarks, negative comments or criticism against them is the fastest way to take an enormous step back in your relationship with your new family, no matter how exact you are. Remember, the same won’t happen in reverse; so be ready for some heartlessness as the odds are they will see you as their replacement, both in your partner and their children’s lives.

10. Give the kids freedom to fit into their lives. Allow the teens to take the lead; your role is to build their confidence, to be understanding, and to act sensibly. Discern ahead of time the type of connection you would like to have with them. Being a friend or sister or brother isn’t going to be a good option; instead, you may opt to be like a favorite aunt or uncle, a trusted counselor or tutor. Remember, don’t even dare to get them to call you Mum or Dad unless they may do so on their own time; but that has to be their decision. Getting into a second marriage may be more difficult especially when your partner has kids. Be ready physically and emotionally before you consider having blended families.

This article was reprinted with permission. Visit the author’s website for more articles and free email subscription.

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