Six ways to sabotage your blended family
Over the top displays of affection
Sure, you and your blended family spouse are excited about your new love and your new life together, but keep overt acts of affection private. If any of your kids are feeling uncomfortable in their new step family situation, your hugs, kisses, tickles, and giggles are not apt to make things easier for them.
Playing favorites with the bio kids
You can count on your step kids watching to see if they are getting short shrift from you, comparing the expectations you place on bio kids regarding household rules, family chores, permissions, and such. A step kid who thinks he is being disrespected can hardly be expected to act in respectful ways toward you or toward step siblings.
Some blended family parents hope that by pretending their step family is happily blended and that no one feels loss, lost, or less valued than someone else, they can make it true. No such luck. It takes time, effort, and clarity of purpose to identify, address, and correct these and other feelings common to every new blended family, and create a feeling of unity and personal acceptance.
Parenting by guilt
Many parents feel guilty about the radical life changes inflicted on their children by a wrenching divorce or other family loss, a remarriage, and by being thrust into a blended family. In a misplaced attempt to make it up to them, some parents suspend or moderate rules, discipline, and behavioral expectations for their kids. Rather than lessening their suffering, this strategy tends to make kids feel less cared for and less secure of their place in the blended family. This strategy also leaves a wide open door for kids to manipulate their bio parent, be dis-respectful their step parent, and generally cause chaos within the blended family.
Put the kids in the middle
Venting frustrations about an ex-spouse, or the ex-spouse of their blended family partner, is generally a healthy activity for step family parents. Bad mouthing the other parent of either your bio kids or your step kids usually serves only to make the kids feel bad. They may feel bad about you for saying mean things, about their other parent because of the things you have said, but they will most certainly feel worst about themselves. Parents who put their kids in the middle of conflicts with ex-spouses essentially undermine their role as a blended family leader capable of meeting the needs of children.
Ignore your couple relationship
It is easy to put your couple relationship on the back burner while you are so busy dealing with step family issues. Being a step parent is hard work, and it takes time, energy, effort, and a lot of patience. So does growing and maintaining a stable relationship with your blended family partner. Parents of kids in a blended family environment sometimes forget how important it is to have a loving and mutually respectful relationship on which kids can someday base their own, and how important it is to have a true partner to help manage the entire blended family.
If you and your blended family are able to avoid sabotaging your own best efforts, you are on your way to developing a genuine bond that can develop into the kind of blended family environment you and your partner envisioned. Please continue to research and benefit from blended family advice articles and websites online, and seek support and help from friends and community members when you need help. A successful and happily blended family is a reasonable goal. Not necessarily an easy one to attain, but reasonable nevertheless. If you need additional help, contact The Blended and Step Family Resource Center for coaching.