By Traci L. Carman
It is with great pleasure that I share with you that in July I got married. Our marriage has created what we call a “blended family.” While my husband has no prior children, I have three, two of whom live with us. Blending two adult lives has its own challenges. Adding children to the mix … well, it can be even more challenging.
I thought I would share three tips for success, and periodically share what we learn as we take this journey of blending our family.
Tip No. 1 — Implement changes relating to the children before you live together.
Early in our relationship, my husband sought counsel to learn what it would take to join a family “already in progress.” One of the most valuable insights that the counselor shared with him was to suggest that we implement any changes that needed to be made relating to the children, before we were married and began living together. While we were not able to identify and make all of those changes prior to our marriage, we were able to choose some specific areas that we could strategically change early, alleviating some of the transition and potential stress for the entire family.
Tip No. 2 — The changes need to be implemented by and at the request of the biological parent(s).
It is important that the children not feel like their new step-parent is coming into their world and changing everything about it. You want as much harmony as possible as you transition into being one family. When you identify changes that are needed or wanted, and both adults are in agreement that it is a healthy change, the biological parent is then the one to introduce the change to the children, and they are the one to enforce it. This will allow the children to adapt to some changes prior to the marriage transition, and will also keep them from feeling like their new step-parent is creating havoc, which can cause resentment.
Tip No. 3 — Create your “New Normal” together (with the kids).
When you blend two families, every family member’s life changes. There are no exceptions. Find out what each person would like to see the “new normal” look like, and then explore how to create that. It won’t be perfect for everyone. Each person will need to be flexible and give in where necessary. Why not direct the inevitable change in a direction that is desired by all? Why not teach your children that they are not at the effect of life, but can create it, and that your family is about win/win?
In our family, we realize we have much to learn as we traverse this path. Fortunately, my husband is a Marriage and Family Therapist, and we are looking forward to blending our passions and creating a beautiful family experience. So far our transition is going smoothly, as we find our rhythm and our “new normal.”
For those of you who are currently blending a family, or are experiencing a similar family transition, be sure to keep the lines of communication open, be flexible, and make it a point to listen to both your partner and your children. Then, create your plan with your partner, and lead your children with love, boundaries and unity.