Blending families is certainly not as easy as it looked on The Brady Bunch. Carol and Mike sure made blending look natural and simple.
In reality, blending families requires intentionality, focus, and time.
If you’re willing to put in the work and be patient, you can successfully join your two families and begin to develop new norms and feel like a new family unit.
These tips will help guide you toward successfully blending families creating a smooth transition for everyone!
Be aware of the changing dynamics.
When two families start living together, it’s important for the parents to be cognizant of the changing dynamics and to keep the lines of communication open with their children.
Changes can be big and obvious like moving to a new house or sharing a room when they didn’t before.
But changes can also be subtle like your eldest child now being younger than one of your partner’s, so they’ve now gone from the leader of the kids to a middle child.
It’s also common for bonds to change between the kids themselves. Perhaps yours kids were really close prior to moving in, but as you’ve started blending families, you notice those bonds shifting and kids getting closer with some of their stepsiblings instead.
This is all totally normal, but it can be challenging for children to navigate on their own. Check in with them regularly, and be available to support (but fight the desire to rescue) them through the transition.
Set expectations early.
Throwing your kids into the deep end and seeing how they do isn’t going to work out well for your stepfamily in the longterm.
Instead, take as much time as necessary to align with your partner on the house culture and family values, house rules and expectations, chores, etc. Getting crystal clear on you and your partner’s expectations will allow you to properly communicate them to the whole family.
Take some time to think about your expectations around:
- Family values
- House rules & family meetings
- Your partner parenting/disciplining your children
- Boundaries with the ex(es)
- Are they allowed in your home?
- Can the kids have photos of them in your home?
- Where will discussions about the ex(es) happen?
- What does respect look like to you
- Carpool/homework duties
- Split of household duties with your partner
Then, have those very important conversations with your partner and get on the same page. Children of divorce can’t easily adjust to norms and standards if we haven’t clearly communicated to them as their parents.
Maintain time for subfamilies.
It is definitely important to spend time together as a big blended family to help everyone bond and create new relationships.
BUT, it’s equally important that kids get time with their parents alone, too. For the child, it can feel like they’ve been replaced by the new family if they don’t get this crucial time with their parent.
Try to make this a regularly standing “date” for the kids to look forward to—and to hold you accountable to schedule this time regularly. It may be “Sundaes on Sundays with Mom” or “Daddy Daughter Tuesdays.” No matter what you decide to call it or which day you choose, it’s going to mean the world to your child(ren) and directly contribute to the success of your efforts blending families.
Give it time.
Speaking of those efforts blending families… if things don’t mesh right out the gate the way you were hoping they would, take a deep breath and relax. On average, it takes 4-7 years for families to blend and get in a good groove with established relationships and deeper bonding.
To take the concept of “give it time” a step further, it’s recommended that you establish a respectful, mutual bond with your stepchildren prior to trying to discipline or parent them solo. When that bond isn’t yet established, the children are more likely to reject a stepparent’s authority and create (or deepen) a divide.
Don’t pressure anyone when blending families.
Learning to live with (and hopefully, love) new people is complicated. You’re sharing more of your things and space. You’re adapting to various personalities and new norms and expectations.
Give everyone grace as they learn how to navigate blending families at the pace that feels right to them.
If your daughter doesn’t want to play with her stepsiblings today, that’s okay. If your stepson is more resistant to bonding with you right now, give him space.
As parents, we can be really eager for everyone to get along and start enjoying this new family we’ve created, but sometimes our kids just aren’t there yet, and our pressure only worsens the situation.
Prioritize your relationship.
Try your best not to sweat the small stuff and remember why you are blending families in the first place—because you fell in love with your partner! Do what you need to do to protect that relationship.
If you need to have different rules for your kids and your partner’s kids, it’s not ideal, but it’s okay!
Do what is necessary to promote harmony, prioritize your relationship, and help everyone feel more at home.
Make sure everyone feels supported throughout the process and has their safe space.
I’ve touched on this, but it bears repeating. Blending families is challenging for all involved. It’s so important that everyone in the family has a safe space to share their struggles and seek comfort.
For the kids, that’s likely their parent. For the partners, it’s often each other or a friend.
You may even consider getting the kids signed up for therapy or signing yourself up for stepparent coaching, or you and your partner up for stepcouple’s coaching.
Having a place where you feel comfortable sharing your highs and lows is crucial as you navigate this transition.
If you’d like to find out more about my coaching services, apply at the button below and let’s see how we can work together to give you more peace and harmony while blending families.
P.S. One of the most challenging parts of blending families is bonding with your stepchildren. Here are some helpful tips!