With a divorce rate around 50%, there are millions of people looking to form new relationships that have children of their own, or are dating someone with children from a previous relationship or marriage. The statistics show that 16% of children grow up in a blended family, which is has been pretty stable for the past 30 years. Prior to moving in and/or getting married there are some things to be mindful of that can help facilitate greater success down the road.
One thing that is crucial is to take the time for everyone to get acquainted and spend time together. There is no need to rush down the wedding isle, especially when blending families. It is upsetting for a child to feel like their new step parent is a complete stranger. Taking the time to build a relationship with kids can payoff greatly later on. During the stages of getting to know each other and even into marriage, the parenting approach is important. Most conventional wisdom suggests that the biological parent should be the one to perform any discipline that is needed, at least in the early stages. As the step parent your primary task to build a friendship and relationship with your partner’s children, and taking an authoritarian role often undermines these efforts, especially when it’s met with, “You’re not my mom/dad, you can’t tell me what to do!” One way for the biological parent to send a message to their children is to let them know they plan to consult and discuss with their partner about how to approach discipline. This lets the children know you and your partner are a united front, even though it is you that does most of the discipline. Over time, the step parent can become more involved in discipline, just make sure you have their back and you are on the same page with parenting.
Patience is the next big task. Many children are resistant and aloof with step parents. Many step parents try real hard and get frustrated feeling like the child should meet them halfway. The reality is that they did not ask to have you in their lives, many will be cautious and slow to warm up, and the burden is yours to shoulder. You will likely have to do much more than your half. There are a couple variables that make that connection tough for kids. Foremost is loyalty to their other parent. Many kids resist accepting a new step parent, even if they like them, because they feel like they are betraying their biological parent. Although these feelings are normal, they cause a lot of distress and confusion for kids. It can be useful to have conversations with kids about loyalty and try to reassure them that the step parent is not trying to replace their mom/dad.
Step siblings is also a tricky business. All children are acutely aware of what is “fair” and are quick to point it out. This is doubly true with step siblings and kids are often concerned about favoritism of a parent toward their own biological kids. Your job is to keep things as even as fair as possible. This will reduce conflict and upset.
If you want to learn more about blended families to increase your chances for success, please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.
To get more great resources, sign up for our newsletter, like us on Face Book, or follow us on Twitter.
Innovative Psychological Consultants
Peace of Mind You Deserve