According to Forbes Advisor, up to 50 per cent of marriages end in divorce. This means that a large percentage of future relationships will involve blending families together. It’s well known that any relationship will fail without nurturing, guidance, and a lot of patience. Divorce is hard on everyone involved and taking that step to create a new step-family is a big decision and one that should be well thought out from all angles.
When I think of a blended family, it reminds me of my smoothies. I toss in a bunch of ingredients and hope it turns out tasting delicious. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. Why? Some ingredients work well together and others were never meant to be in the same smoothie together. Like a smoothie, a blended family falls into the same risk category. Sometimes it’s the best thing since sliced bread and other times it’s as disastrous as thinking lemon and milk will bind. They don’t, and you’re left with bigger problems on your hands. But, with some attention and care, you can create the best possible outcome with the ingredients provided.
There are ways to ensure a smooth integration of families when children are involved. One surefire way to extinguish the excitement of blending families together is rushing into the situation. Children aren’t always as ready as the adults to move in with another family, share their space, toys, parents, and routines. Allowing children time to adjust to the idea long before it happens is key. Being open to communicating their fears and excitement will build stability when the time comes. When you understand where these fears are rooted, you can build supports to ensure your child(ren) knows you have their back and they are your number one priority.
Allow the parent of the child to parent their own child. As the stepparent, your focus is to build a relationship with your partner’s children, not be after them with discipline. Having said that, there’s still a time and place for discipline, such as when the other parent isn’t present. Telling that child that you will discuss the issue with their mom/dad is a better way to not sour your relationship with the child but instead, let them know that this issue won’t be swept under the rug.
Ensure you continue with routine. Every Thursday night, my children and I have a movie night with special snacks and do a sleepover together. If I were to blend my family, I would keep this same routine on Thursday nights. Let the other family do their own thing that evening. Keeping your own family schedule gives your child(ren) stability, quality time alone with you, and continues to build connection.
Lastly, let your children know they are number one and always will be. Although you as parents now living as a team consolidate your routines, discipline, rules, etc., your children will still be number one to you. They may fear that the other parent is taking you away from them. This can create insecurity and may result in behavioural issues. Letting your child know that they will come first and that you are not No. 1 for your partner allows breathing room and security for them.
With care, understanding, and most of all, patience, you can have a fruitful blended family. Much like a well orchestrated smoothie, it will turn out better than just tossing in random, unplanned ingredients.
Watch for part two: Fool-proof Your Relationship in a Blended Family
– Sara Aloimonos is a life coach and functional nutritionist based in Yellowknife.