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Steps for Happy Steps Forward
More often than ever before, men and women are entering into new marriages with children from previous marriages or relationships. Children not only need to adjust to their parents not being together, but also to having a new stepparent and stepsiblings in the home.These new changes make life just a little bit more complicated. Children and parents need to adapt to new schedules, new routines, new ways of life. They may not get along with stepsiblings or step parents initially. Children may feel that the stepsiblings are favored, or feel like the step parent does not care about them. There are so many possibilities to the feelings and emotions that can occur when blending families together. But changes are not always negative. Bringing new people and new love into the home can enhance everyone’s lives. Parents are happier than ever with their new partner, and children may find that they like having a blended family. Blended families can be very positive and supportive.
Here are some steps to having a successful blended family. Every family is different; however, these steps are likely to be beneficial to all.
- Give it time
Experts say that a stepfamily is not fully established until between two and five years from when first initiated. This means that there is a lot of adjusting that needs to happen. Roles in the family change over time, and relationships with others in the home will grow and change.
The key to a successful blended family is the preservation of the old, and the integration of the new. It is important that each original family spend time with each other alone, without the steps, at least at first. Â This helps children and adults feel like they have roots and that some things will always be the same. They can learn to appreciate each other, the value of family, and may be more open to accepting new family members. It is also important to take some time to get to know the new steps. Finding a way to connect is very important from the start. Stepparents can participate in events that stepchildren enjoy, and relate to them through these activities. Stepparents and stepchildren can spend time together learning a new skill; something that they will share.
- Be consistent about rules and discipline
Stepparents often want stepchildren to “like” them. In other words, they want to be looked upon by their new family positively. Because of this, they may not enforce all of the rules in the home, may be more lenient, or even break rules with the children. Children may associate the stepparents with fun and games, or with buying them things, and may not listen when they are given a directive from the step parent.
Parents should be on the same page about rules and discipline in the home. It would also be helpful if custodial parent and noncustodial parent agree upon discipline and rules, although this happens less frequently. Within the home, though, if both parents do not enforce the rules, children will learn to split parents. They will learn who they can go to in order to get what they want, and they know who to avoid if they are in trouble. Children may come to disrespect the stepparent if the stepparent does not enforce rules. Stepparents may initially need help establishing their role as a disciplinarian in the home, and will require much support from their partner at this time.
- Remember to put energy and effort into your relationship with your partner.
Too often, children run their parents’ lives. Parents are running from one soccer game to a school meeting to a birthday party. It is easy to neglect your relationship with your partner. But this is so important, especially in blended families. Children need to see a positive model of a healthy relationship between their parents. They need to know that their family life is secure, and that they can feel safe with the new components of the family.
Sometimes it takes effort to maintain a solid relationship. Parents need to make sure to have enough time together to bond and talk. Scheduling date nights alone without the children may be helpful, either inside or outside of the home. Taking an evening walk alone could be a way to connect everyday and to share concerns, thoughts, feelings, etc that are not related to children.
Your ex-partner, or, your childrens’ other biological parent, is going to be involved in your childrens’ lives forever. Your children love their other parent, just as they love you. It can be confusing and stressful for children when they see their biological parents fighting over something, and when one parent says bad things about the other when they are not around. Maintaining a positive relationship with your ex does not mean that you have to spend time with them or even like them at all. It just means acting civilly toward each other, being agreeable to co-parenting, talking about things that relate to the children, and keeping negative opinions about the other to yourself. This will also help to keep consistency with rules and discipline, as these things can be clearly communicated to the other.
Successful families are possible and happen often. Stepparents and stepchildren come to love and appreciate one another, and eventually will not be able to imagine a life without them.