Blended families, also known as stepfamilies, are commonplace these days, as more divorced or separated parents remarry or live together. These new relationships can be tricky, as it takes time for everyone to adjust to new dynamics. It is a major lifestyle change, and steps taken toward it should be done with care.
Living with new people can be challenging for parents and children, especially if the first marriage lasted a long time. People tend to resist breaking old habits, even if it is for the greater good. Understanding how the dynamics work can help smooth these transitions.
Not all stepparents have their own children, so they might not be familiar with parenting techniques; those that do have children might have very different ways of caring for them. Having realistic expectations at the beginning can help ease everyone in to the new situation. The new couple should discuss parenting before they move in, and when both agree about issues, such as discipline, it will be easier to parent the children together.
The transition should be done slowly, as too many changes at the same time can upset the children. Waiting a year or two to remarry and spending quality time with the children can really help. Getting to know one another gradually is the best way to develop long-term, caring relationships. It is also important for everyone to treat one another with respect during this period.
It is hard to predict how new siblings will feel about one another. Factors such as age, maturity, and personality traits can help things along or lead to tension. Some feel a need to compete for attention, and can act out. Other situations that cause stress are when an oldest child is suddenly the youngest, or if one male child suddenly has three step-sisters. Creating new family traditions and giving each child special attention can help. Allowing every family member to contribute to planning a family vacation is one way to bond, as well as having a set time for a family dinner at least once a week.
Communication and Boundaries
Open communication is important for all families, and blended ones should make it a priority. Frequent and open communication will increase trust and decrease the chances for misunderstanding. Conflicts are bound to happen, and they should also be discussed. Keeping emotions bottled up can lead to grudges and arguments. The more time the family spends together, the more opportunities there will be to talk.
Parents should create a practical list of family rules. This can be done with the children’s input and placed in a highly visible location. Parents should also agree as to who will be responsible for certain things, such as carpooling, meals, etc. It is recommended that the biological parent be the one primarily responsible for discipline, at least until the stepparent and children have bonded.
South Jersey Divorce Lawyers at the Burnham Law Group, LLC Advocate for Clients Seeking Divorce
Having a blended family can be life-changing, challenging, and rewarding. The South Jersey divorce lawyers at the Burnham Law Group, LLC are dedicated to helping families through divorce. Call us or complete an online form for a free consultation today. We have offices in Marlton and Somers Point, New Jersey, where we represent clients throughout South Jersey, including Camden County, Burlington County, and Atlantic County.