New blended family step parents have a lot on their plates when you consider they must learn to balance their regular lives with a new love, a new relationship, new living arrangements, and new step children. Turning this set of new experiences into a cohesive family unit does not happen overnight, and it does not always happen smoothly. Along with all your other duties, it is up to you as step parents to create a blended family home atmosphere that can contribute to family bonding.
Supportive environment in your blended family
Make your blended family home a place where open communication is encouraged. Set regularly scheduled family time to settle disputes, to learn about each other, and begin creating blended family memories. Establish clear rules that everyone understands and which are consistently enforced. Give positive reinforcement for positive behaviors. Bonding comes easier in an environment where everyone feels accepted, appreciated, and loved for the people they are. Encourage personal interests and special skills, and celebrate participation.
Teams need support
Show support for your team of family members by attending shows, games, competitions, concerts, and other events in which your blended family kids are involved. Your being there not only demonstrates your consistent love and support, but it gives everyone more common ground on which to build the solid relationships your blended family needs.
Step family group activities
Look for an activity that family members can enjoy together – join a community theater group or a ceramics class; learn karate together; play in a family softball league; go camping, hiking, or cycling as a blended family. Literally every activity you and your blended family take part in is a piece of family history in the making. When it comes to making memories, blended families are already playing catch-up, so get the ball rolling as soon as possible.
Blended family gallery of photos
As soon as possible, create a prominent display of blended family photos in your home. Seeing pictures of themselves alongside step siblings and step parents can help make it easier for kids to feel a part of the new step family group. It is healthy for kids to display photos of themselves with their non-custodial parent, although you may wish to hang those on bedroom walls. Let everything about your blended family home visibly support family unity.
Practice good communication
The best way to get to know someone is by talking. In your blended family, let every subject be open to age-appropriate discussion, including current events, religion, ethics, friendship, morality, and sex. Let your kids know where you stand on these life-forming issues. Ask for their perspective on issues; listen respectfully, and honestly try to see their point of view if it is different from yours. You might play a little bit of devil’s advocate and thoughtfully point out flaws in their reasoning, but remember there is no wrong answer for someone who is asked for an opinion.
Family game night is a great tool for step family bonding. Keep team alliances rotating so that step kids and step parents, and step siblings, all get equal time on the same team. Try to stay away from teams made up of Her and her kids vs. Him and his kids, which can actually work against your goal of bonding together as a blended family unit.
Always keep working on your marital relationship
How well your blended family bonds together into a mutually loving and respected unit depends, finally, on you. A step family asks a lot from step parents. First, it requires that you make compromises in your falling-in-love and learning-to-live-together time line. Secondly, it requires that you act in loving ways toward step kids you barely know and who may be resentful of your mere presence in their family. Thirdly, each of you needs to appreciate the sacrifices made by your blended family partner. Truly, your step family relationships will suffer if your founding relationship falters, so give it the attention it needs and deserves.
There really is no clear cut recipe for blending two groups of people into a solid and loving family, but remembering to be kind, caring, considerate and respectful of each other, and taking the time to consider what is and is not good for family unity can certainly lead you down the path to blended family satisfaction. If you need additional assistance, contact The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.