Clear cut standards and expectations and can be the saving graces for a blended family with step children and step siblings who have been raised, thus far, under different parenting philosophies. One of the important talks you and your new blended family spouse must have will be about the individual parenting styles you both bring to the step family situation.
Blended family guidelines, boundaries and consequences
Among the many changes inherent to forming and managing a blended family is a new family dynamic.
Rules and systems which may have worked well for a single parent and his or her kids often do not translate well into a new blended family setting where step kids are expected to respond to different parenting styles or when step siblings of differing ages, personalities, and needs are involved. The time for the two of you to discuss boundaries and guidelines for your kids and your new step family home is, preferably, before you all move in together. That way, any new rules or expectations can be instituted by the children’s bio parent, giving the new step parent an early pass on any defiance or blame associated with the changes.
Plan time alone with your new partner to talk about and identify what is important to each of you as parents. Do you prefer order in the family room, or can you be comfortable with the chaotic jumble your new partner and his or her kids find cozy? Do you both agree on what, if any, chores children should have around the house? How insistent are you on everyone sitting down to eat together; on punctuality; on feeding food scraps to the dog from the table? Figure out what is really important to each of you, what is negotiable, and what does not matter very much. If you cannot wholly agree on a particular issue, try ranking your feelings about it. If your feelings rate a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10 but your partner rates his or her feelings at 7, your deference to the stronger opinion is a great compromise and excellent exercise in good will.
Blended family house rules
Once you agree on what is important, forming house rules for your newly blended home should be relatively easy. Keep them clear and simple, such as Treat Each Other With Respect. Be prepared to give examples of what you mean, such as; no shouting, no taking things that do not belong to you, no lying. Decide what kinds of consequences will be meted out if and when rules are broken, keeping them age appropriate and, above all, fair.
Presentation of house rules
Explain your blended family house rules to your children as early on in your family merge as possible. Present the guidelines together, as a couple, outlining your reasons for each rule and asking for input from the children. Do they agree the rules are fair? Do they have alternate suggestions? Make sure they understand that rules apply to each and every member of the blended family, whether they are full-time residents of the house or just visit now and then. Let the step siblings know their step parents will not give special considerations or different consequences to their own bio kids. Talk about suggested consequences for rule violations, and ask for suggestions on this matter, too. Rules and the consequences of breaking them must be clearly understood if your kids and step kids are to trust you to institute them fairly.