TIPS FOR Having A SUCCESSFUL Blended Family
Families come in all shapes and sizes. You don’t even have to share the same blood to be family! What matters most is the love and sense of unity present within your family.
At first, a blended family or stepfamily may find the adjustment period challenging. After all, they have to form new relationships, merge traditions and rituals, and find a new rhythm as their family combines. Although this may be daunting, it can be an exciting step if you are equipped with the right mindset and helpful tips to bond together!
What is a blended family? A blended family is a stepfamily with members related through marriage. At one time, a blended family was a rare occurrence. However, blended families have become increasingly prevalent, with almost 4 million kids living in a home with a step-parent in the U.S.
Although every family is unique, members of stepfamilies often enter into their new blended family with feelings of guilt, loss, and fear. This may make for a rocky start. Luckily, you care enough to be here searching for guidance and solutions.
In this post, we will determine the blended family definition and identify common challenges that stepfamilies may encounter. We will also explore the changes you can make to bond your new family together for a lifetime of joy and love!
What is a Blended Family
So, let’s get right to it. What is the blended family definition? A blended family (sometimes referred to as stepfamilies) is formed when a marriage occurs between partners where one or both partners have children from a previous relationship. As you can imagine, merging two families or adding in a new step-parent can be a very challenging experience for all involved.
CHALLENGES OF NEW Blended Families
Blended families face unique struggles due to complex issues that often arise when two families are merged together (think schedules, traditions, parenting styles, and even shared custody arrangements.) The transition of becoming a new family unit can be challenging for all family members, young and old.
Below, you will find some advice on the most common issues stepfamilies experience. Although each blended family will be different, it often can take 2–4 years for a family to adjust. So remain patient and keep persevering. You’re playing the long game here!
1. Marital Strain
If you are struggling in your new relationship over the stress of combining your family into one cohesive unit, you are not alone! Often, the new couple doesn’t have time to focus on growing their new relationship because they are so preoccupied with the complex dynamics of each new relationship within their blended family.
While mediating new relationships is essential, strengthening your marriage is the most critical priority. Kids observe adults carefully, and they can sense discord, which affects their behavior. So despite the challenges, try to remember why you blended your family in the first place—LOVE! Your new stepfamily was born out of love; work hard to keep that love alive and strong. Though it may take time to adjust and smooth out any issues, prioritizing your relationship will allow your love to trickle down and fill up your new family.
How to Overcome This Struggle: So how do you prioritize your relationship without causing more family drama? Date each other! You don’t even have to leave the house. Instead of turning on the TV, enjoy an easy at-home date together to feel more connected with your spouse.
2. Discipline Struggles
An outsider may assume that a blended family would slip into the same patterns of a traditional two-parent household, with both parents involved in handling disagreements and discipline. However, experience with blended families would lead you to a different conclusion.
In most situations, the step-parent initially plays the role of a friend or mentor. The custodial parent is primarily responsible for the decisions and discipline of their children. It isn’t until the step-parent has formed a strong, trusting bond that they can begin to take more responsibility for the kids.
This is not to say that the step-parent should be completely hands-off and disengaged. Instead, they should be actively involved in monitoring the kids’ behavior and discussing it with their partners. However, it is typically best if the custodial parent makes the decisions for and has the final say involving issues with their kids. Once a solid bond has been formed between the step-parent and the child, they can begin to take on a more active role in discipline.
How to Overcome This Struggle: Communication! Communication! Communication! This one won’t get easier unless both partners communicate with one another on when and how to step in and discipline. It’s recommended that both partners carefully learn how to effectively communicate with each other on bigger topics, such as parenting styles, discipline, and even rules of the home.
3. Difficult Relationships
Stepfamilies often encounter roadblocks in relationships. Parent and child relationships can become strained, step-parent and child relationships can be complicated, and child-to-child relationships may also bring their own issues. Each of these is difficult to navigate, but there is hope for brighter days in the future. It can take time, but there are steps you can take right now to smooth the path going forward.
One of the most important things you can do is validate each other’s feelings. For example, it’s okay if a child doesn’t feel excited about the wedding. It’s okay if they are worried that loving their step-parent feels like a betrayal toward their biological parent. It’s okay if they feel sad, anxious, or miss their old life. These are all very normal and relatable feelings. Associating shame with any of these feelings will only make forming new relationships that much more difficult.
No matter what each person is feeling, make it known that you are a safe space for those big feelings. Make sure that each member of your family knows that no one has to keep those feelings inside. You may think that it is best to suppress negative feelings, but it does so much more harm than good. Instead, allow each person to process their feelings throughout the experience of becoming a part of a blended family.
How to Overcome This Struggle: Take things slowly, and try to avoid expectations. Although you may be a family, some of the new relationships may not feel like comfortable family relationships yet. Remain patient and cautiously approach acts of physical affection, like hugging. Instead, start with verbal affection, like offering compliments and praise.
how to have a happy Step Family
A blended family doesn’t have the shared history and experiences that naturally bond families together. It takes time to make these memories. You can speed up the process by creating intentional moments of togetherness. This is done through creating traditions, rituals, and memories. Keep in mind these all don’t have to be perfect. It’s okay if things don’t go exactly as you envisioned.
There may be whining, feet dragging, or bad attitudes, but that’s okay! You’re still creating a shared history together. The key is to consider what each person in the family would enjoy. For example, your teen may not love family game nights like your younger kids, but they may feel connected when you show interest in their love of gaming. Try to take turns catering to different members of the family.
Keep in mind the goal is to invest the time. Relationships are created through time spent together. A study showed that it takes well over 100 hours to make a good friend and around 300 to make a best friend. Put in the time and the relationship will grow.
How to Bond Your Blended Family
Successful blended families make time to bond. Below, you will find 5 ideas to help your family connect and become closer.
1. Set Family Rules
Connection is more difficult when you don’t have clear boundaries set. If members of your family are stressed out, it makes it more difficult to enjoy time together. So, set clear family rules and meet together regularly to discuss them.
Here are just a couple of ideas to consider while you brainstorm what rules would benefit your family most. First, make respect mandatory. It’s okay to disagree or be frustrated, but parents and kids should remain respectful when speaking to and about each other. Another suggestion is to ban ultimatums. No one should have to choose between two family members. Both parties are important, so one family member will never be chosen over another.
2. Get on the Same Page
Do you feel like you are constantly dealing with whining and arguing? One way to curb this is to involve your whole family in weekly planning. When they take part in the planning, they may feel more in control. Children of blended families often feel unsettled by how much their lives have changed. So involve them in the day-to-day details and let them have a say! For example, let them choose what you make for dinner or the family activity for the week.
3. Give Individual Attention
One-on-one attention is very important when creating a relationship. This can be difficult in a blended family if some relationships are more strained than others. However, that is all the more reason to make time to forge a connection. Individual attention can mean a whole afternoon spent doing a fun activity together. Alternatively, you can also write small notes, bring home a treat just for them, or come up with a special or secret nickname together.
Taking time to do something special for just one person in the family can make them feel more confident and loved. So make an effort to get to know each family member individually. We have many ideas for showing love to your family and getting to know them better.
4. Create New Traditions and Rituals
The best way to create shared memories and deeper relationships is to build family rituals. Rituals are activities that you repeat consistently. These are the things that give your kids a sense of belonging and make them feel secure. Family rituals can be small things like a special handshake, family prayer, evening walks, or snuggling before bedtime. Whether it’s a family movie night every Friday or family dates on Saturdays, you can create a more bonded family by creating dependable rituals.
Similarly, traditions can bring more meaning and fun to your family. Holiday traditions can make the days so much more magical and exciting. Let each family member participate in deciding what makes the holiday most fun for them, and then join in all together!
5. Construct a Positive Family Culture
Whether you are aware of it or not, traditions, ideas, habits, beliefs, attitudes, and your environment make up your family culture. These things govern how it feels to be in your home. Every family has its own dynamic. You have the power to be intentional about the type of family culture you cultivate.
Identify the values you want your family to embody. If you want a family culture of honesty, teamwork, compassion, hard work, fun, or respect, you need to intentionally create it. For example, if you need respect to be a part of your family culture, you need to evaluate what practices need to be incorporated or discontinued to encourage it better. Is it funny to tease each other in your family? It’s not funny to be mean, so this should stop if respect is a high priority.
Create a family culture that your kids WANT to be a part of. This can take time, but you create the right tone of your home through intention.
The fact that you are here making an effort to make your family stronger is a great sign. The biggest thing you can do to ensure a successful blended family is to try your best and lead with love. Blended families face unique struggles, but you can work through them! Use this guide to create a close, bonded blended family. We are rooting for you!