Balancing child rearing philosophy, energy, and commitment is often no fun for a blended family step parent. Feeling torn between your new spouse, stepchildren, and your own kids when you are trying to keeping everybody on board your blended family boat from a mutiny can be a challenge. It sometimes takes literally years to create harmony in a struggling blended family, but it is achievable. Here’s how: Assess the situation; set your goal; create a plan; follow through; continually re-assess the situation; revisit your goal; revise your plan if needed; follow through.
Acknowledge the struggle
When you and your new spouse created this blended family, if you expected that two separate established families with established routines and methods, and with established rules and expectations, could blend together easily, you were being blinded by love. Some say that anything worth having is worth struggling for; they may well be talking about blended families.
Happily, you are not in this blended family business alone. You are in it with your partner, your co-step parent, your spouse, and so long as you two stay on track as a couple, keep sight of your goals as co-step parents, and maintain a loving and consistent home, managing your blended family is doable.
Have discussions about child-rearing when you are alone
If you and your spouse discuss a hot parenting issue for the first time in front of you kids, you may be setting yourselves, and your kids, up for confusion and discomfort. Besides agreeing that you and your spouse will always present a united stance in front o
f the kids, you should both know that if you argue in front of children, it affects them in several different ways. One very important effect is that children feel at fault when you argue about them. Children of divorce and remarriage are particularly vulnerable around arguing parents. Get your talking, negotiating and resolves about child raising issues done while the kids are not present. Your united stance, even if they disagree with it, is something the kids can at least rely on.
Say what you feel
Unless you tell your spouse or step kids how you feel and why, it is not fair for either you or your child to feel misunderstood. Harmony can only be realized in a blended family where everyone knows what is and is not expected of them. Tell your spouseexactly what you need in order to feel accepted, special, and an important part of their life. In turn, you must also ask your partner what is needed from you. Be straight with step kids and bio kids about your expectations from them, and be sure to listen to what they expect from you, too.
Mutually agree on consequences for breaking house rules
Do not assume your accustomed style of disciplining your kids is appropriate for your step kids. You and your spouse must have a frank discussion about whatever rules and consequences existed before the blended family. Because it is unfair to change the rules on a child overnight, you and your spouse need to mutually agree on household rules and consequences for the entire family, step kids and bio kids alike, and decide how and when to introduce them. Generally speaking, instituting new rules is best done before the creation of the blended family, but with consideration and patience, it is never too late to begin.
Step up to the task
Make it a major goal to develop a relationship with each step kid, one that has nothing to do with your spouse. Set aside special time for you and your step kid to interact alone. Start thinking of your step kid as one of your own, and focus on them as individuals. Realize that you are an important person in his or her life, and they need you to step up. Go for it! For more information on how to nourish blended family relationships, visit The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.