When two people with children from previous relationships contemplate entering into a remarriage, one of the very first things they ought to do is to compare their individual parenting styles to see whether adjustments are in order. Some might wonder: If his kids are great and hers are wonderful, too, why mess with something that seems to be working okay?
There is no doubt about it: different families approach discipline matters, television permissions, bed times, daily chores, and more, in so many divergent ways it makes you wonder how any of it works! The sooner you and your blended family partner come together on parenting philosophies, the better. If you can, try to institute major changes you feel are necessary to your new blended family home, such as having everyone sleep in their own beds, before you all move into the same house. While you are discovering your differences in parenting styles, remember to take a non-judgmental stance, and to remain open minded. Your goal is to reach agreement on a system of parenting that feels fair and effective to both of you.
Create house rules
Create house rules and guidelines for your blended family home. Having the rules written down in their own notebook is particularly helpful when it comes time to present them to your blended family of step siblings, as is space for notes on any responses or suggestions the children may offer. Their input can make important improvements! House rules will need to be clearly understood and accepted by all family members. Organize a time to explain the guidelines to your children; a family meeting right after you all move in together may be a good time.
United we stand
Present your new guidelines together, as a couple. Your united we stand, especially about these new house rules, will have a direct impact on how easily your children accept any of the changes which come with your remarriage and with building step family relationships. Explain that step parents and step kids are not to be viewed or treated as step-anything. Biological parents should take the lead when it comes to introducing or reinforcing discipline matters, or for handing down consequences – especially with older kids – but be straight with them right away: the grown-ups in your blended family home, parent or step parent, are in charge equally and interchangeably. Just as you and your blended family partner commit to treating each of your children, both bio kids and step kids, the same, you can motivate them to treat you and your spouse with equal consideration and respect.
Discipline is something positive parents give to their children, not to be confused with punishment or consequences for bad behavior. Child development experts confirm that children thrive on limits and boundaries; while their growing need for independence will have them pulling away from parental guidance soon enough, children need adult leadership and support to learn which behaviors, actions and interpersonal communications are appropriate. Age-appropriate disciplines such as taking responsibility for their own actions or their own mistakes not only give children a sense of right and wrong, but they provide lessons on living in the real world. As parents, our job is to prepare our children for adult life. Discipline teaches that some things are acceptable, others are not, and that doing the unacceptable has consequences.
Blended family life comes with enough built-in hurdles to keep you and your new spouse busy and on your toes all the time; a clear plan for how you parent the children in your home can help ease some of the challenges, and may even prevent some of the more difficult challenges. Love each other, love your children, and love them in ways which benefit them the most.