If you have decided to get married the second time after a divorce or death of a spouse, you might be wondering how your kids will adjust to the new situation. Don’t expect that children will take a lesson from the Brady bunch. Let us be realistic. Merging two families who have different lifestyles, different food habits and different rules is certainly won’t be easy, but with a little patience and love, things will get back on track soon. Here are a few tips to help your children cope with the adjustments and demands of a blended family.
• If possible try and start your new life in a new house. Children may feel confused or left out if they are asked to live in a stepfamily’s house. Your kids may resent having to share their house with your spouse’s kids and vice versa. The best solution to this is to look for a new house.
• As much as possible, try and arrange different rooms for the kids because they are going to have a tough time adjusting to stepsiblings and accepting the fact that they have to share their life, their parents and their belongings with others.
• Spend time with your partner’s children so that they get to know you and bond with you. Initially, try and be a friend to them and then move on to the role of a parent. It won’t be easy. There is sure to be resistance, especially if children are in their adolescence. On the other hand, children up to the age of 10 may adjust and appreciate your efforts to be their friend and counsellor.
• In your efforts to bond with your spouse’s children, don’t leave out your own kids. Make sure that you do all that you used to do together before marriage. For instance, if you used to take your child out for lunch every week continue to do so.
• Participate in all activities which your children and stepchildren are involved in. Go with them for basket ball games and PTA meetings. Adjust your schedule to meet the needs of your own children and your partner’s children.
• Stepsibling rivalry is as common as sibling rivalry. Handle such situations with care. Don’t take sides or play favoritism. Be diplomatic and take time to explain to the children that you understand their feelings and will help them deal with it.
• When it comes to disciplining kids, it may be easier to handle your own kids rather than your stepchildren. Your partner’s children may not like it if you discipline or scold them, no matter how serious the offence. Especially in the early stages, let each parent discipline their own children. As you bond with your partners kids, you can progress to the role of a disciplinarian.
• It is a good idea to decide rules together with your spouse and make them clear to your children. Remember, both parties have lived in different situations and have to follow different sets of rules, so do not let rules clash.
• If your children spend holidays and weekends with your ex spouse, let them continue to do so. The presence of the other parent is vital for your child.
• Holidays should be planned taking everyone’s interests into consideration, not just that of one family. Try and do something that provides a new experience for kids from both families. This way, you can ensure that the holiday season proceeds smoothly.
• If both families belong to different cultures or religions, teach your children to respect others cultural and religious values even though they may be different from your own.
It takes a lot of time and patience to help kids adjust to the concept of being a blended family. But once they begin to bond, and once trust and love develops, things are sure to fall in place and rest assured you will be one big happy family.