Blended family is a popular term right now. The term “blended” is helpful because it is more encompassing than stepfamily. So families where the parents are not married are also included, as are families or single parents adopting or fostering children.
But I’m not convinced it’s an accurate or fair term because the word blended also has aspirations attached to it. I think that “blended” may imply a somewhat unrealistic aim to become harmoniously mixed, Brady Bunch style. This can be quite a tall order at times, as anyone who has been in such a family will tell you.
One in every three people will find them self in a blended family at least once in their lifetime. Anyone who has experience of being in such a family will tell you how difficult it can be at times. Even just dating someone with children can be challenging whether you have your own children or not.
The key to success and happiness in a blended family is to be objective and honest. Keeping your eye on the bigger picture when things get tough is the aim. You have chosen to be in this situation because you love your partner and want to be with them. You may not have necessarily chosen for them to have children, or children like them, let alone an ex partner or two. However that is the reality of their life and if your relationship is to grow you have to be able to accept that and move forward. If you are truly able to live with that decision, without resentment most of the time, then you need to be able to view the years ahead as potentially very rewarding and sometimes challenging. Create a vision for yourself of how you want your new family to be in 5, 10, 20 years time. A blended family is not the same as a first family, it never will be, but it can be one made up of individuals who enjoy spending time together and support each other.
A friend of mine and her brother recently went to their stepsiblings’ mother’s funeral. After nearly 30 years of being part of that stepfamily my friend and her brother wanted to support their stepbrothers and sister at the funeral. The stepsiblings were really touched that they had made the effort to go. Eventually, when you are no longer around, your stepchildren may have grown close enough to be there for each other.
Children and young people need to feel safe and secure. It is important not to rush into making too many changes at once so that the children feel accepted just as they are. Gradual changes and new boundaries can be agreed upon by the parents and introduced gently. Discussing how you want the new household to work eg bedtime routines, mealtimes and holidays is important. Then agreeing on a course of action together and backing each other in a united front to carry it out is paramount.
As in all relationships communication is vital. Being honest with yourself about the fact that you are angry and resentful at times is healthy, it’s a perfectly natural way to feel for all parents. There is no such thing as the perfect parent. Everyone is pushed to their limit with children at some point. What matters more is how you handle and heal the situation afterwards and what you can learn from it to better manage a similar situation next time.
If possible it’s important to keep a broader perspective on the situation. This means that at times it’s about becoming the bigger person and keeping calm with the children and waiting for a more appropriate time to discuss the matter in hand.
Making time for yourself and your own relaxation is important as is having quality time to be alone with your partner. After all you two are the reason you are creating this blended family in the first place!