Letting go of past experiences and expectations is a must for a blended family life to thrive. Sure, your former mother-in-law knew just how far she had to step away to stay out of your business, and your new mother-in-law thinks her advice is not only necessary, it is welcome! It might be that your partner is not as patient with the kids as your ex was, and perhaps not as contented as your ex had always been with your particular style of intimacy. Maybe your previous home had a nicer yard, more storage space, or nicer neighbors.Sometimes you might find yourself annoyed at how your step kids behave. Your kids never acted like that!
When you hold on to something, you cannot give or receive much else. For example, if your cupped hands are holding 20 loose puzzle pieces, you can give only a handful of disconnected pieces, and cannottake anything someone offers. As a step parent, you have to give before you can ever expect to receive; as a spouse, you give love to get love, and share joy to feel joy. You can only do these things when you are open and receptive to the present. Focus on the gift of your remarriage; on your small successes in bonding with step kids; on the progress step siblings are making to form your blended family with you. Let the past go.
Now is now
Think about it. Why would you want, or expect, your blended family to be a mirror of your previous family relationship? Okay, your step family does hold many of the same participantsfrom your previous family unit, but it now includes people who make your earlier family model both outdated and inappropriate. Your new step family is a blend of familiar and unfamiliar, new choices and old habits, and a colorful collage of step moms and step dads, step kids and step siblings, step grandparents, all struggling with their own wants and expectations based on their own past experiences in their outdated family unit. Make it a blended family goal to separate the past from the present.
Take a fresh look
Step moms and step dads can practice looking at the kids – bio and step kids – as totally new and different people; that is what they are, after all. They used to be just yours. Now they are step siblings who have a step parent and other step relatives.Try to help all your kids find harmony as step siblings, and encourage new thinking, creative problem solving, cooperative negotiations, and unconditional acceptance. As step moms and step dad, help them to learn that tolerance is an important life skill.
Step parents can practice looking at each other as totally new and different spouses, too! His former marriage experiences and expectations are undoubtedly different from hers. Imagine the re-calibration it can take for each to see their new partners in a true light if his ex-spouse was secretive and bottled up anger until it exploded, and her ex was aggressive but she never backed down!
Treat each day with your step family as a life unto itself. Appreciate the people in your blended family as if today might be your last chance to learn or love anything new about them.Tell your bio kids how much you appreciate their hanging in there with you while you try to make a happy and satisfying life for them and for you. Let your step kids know you are glad they are in your life and glad you are in theirs. Every day, thank your spouse for joining you in this blended family you are building together. When you practice letting go of past experiences and expectations, your blended family can create its own present. For more information on how to live up blended family expectations, contact The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.