Part of the struggle of maintaining a blended family is logistical/legal. According to the San Antonio step-child adoption lawyers at Higdon, Hardy & Zuflacht: “As a stepparent, you fulfill the same parental duties and harbor the same love for your stepchild as if they were your own. However, you do not have the security or rights to call the step-child your own legally. And if worse comes to worst and the legal parent were to die, there is no guarantee you would get custody of the child.”
However, what a lot of people ignore in these situations is that there’s also an emotional component to this as well. How do you take different children who could have wildly different backgrounds and suddenly put them together in a new environment? It’s not easy, and yet, with roughly one in three marriages being a second marriage, there are more and more blended families popping up by the minute. Should you find yourself in such a situation, here are some key items to keep in mind.
For one things, you need to develop that wonderful habit of patience when it comes to your children adjusting to their new stepsiblings as well as a new environment. A lot of the time, it’s easy to get frustrated if you find that the adjustment isn’t happening as fast as you would like, but this is a basic part of dealing with new surroundings, so you need to be ready to see some hiccups at first. However, what you can be willing to enforce right away is a newfound level of respect in the household. Part of this is going both ways. It’s okay to expect respect out of your children, but you want to show that back as well. This doesn’t mean be permissive, but just try to avoid being overly harsh or sarcastic in your interactions with your children. Remember, the foundations of a new household are starting, and being respectful is a chance for you to make these expectations both positive and clear early on.
Because of this, part of making a blended family work is having regular communication with your spouse about staying consistent with a lot of these things. Children may already come into a blended family confused based on their home environment before, and having two parents taking different approaches to things like discipline only make things more confusing. Not to mention, it’s less likely that discipline will be established in the home this way.
One thing that people going through divorces find out all too well is the fact there’s not only an emotional component that needs to be addressed, but a logistical one as well. This means learning how to function with less money in the household, new tasks that you may have to deal with, and other similar issues that probably don’t come to mind when a marriage ends. In its own way, blended families have to navigate this issue. However, the issue may not be less people to handle tasks and more tasks to handle. Make sure to talk to your spouse about things as simple as what one child may need to go to activities-wise in order to make sure that they can keep some semblance of life before as they transition into this new setting.
Another mental piece that you may want to get in the habit of thinking of when it comes to a blended family is that if your spouse has a child of their own, try and make a relationship between you and the child that doesn’t revolve around the spouse. Getting rid of the mentality of “this person’s kid” versus being your own is a good start towards creating a true blended family. Even if the other parent is still in their lives, you now have some level of responsibility towards them as well. Try and take this head-on.
As a final note, things aren’t going to be perfect, and you may end up being hit with the dreaded “I liked things better before” once or twice before the dust has settled with your blended family. However, at some point, you need to understand that you can’t place the blame for every bad situation due to being a blended family. After all, on some level, you know this was happening when getting married to someone with children of their own or if you had your own children. Just be ready to reflect on what changes you can make as a parent in order to improve the situation.