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10 tips to help blended families
Remarrying with children often creates a complex dynamic. Expectations may not be clear and people aren’t sure how to behave. Ex-spouses and their new spouse impact what happens in your household. Is it any surprise that all of this creates stress and conflict in relationships?
Believe it or not, transitioning into a stepfamily requires some prep work.
If you are embarking on this journey, Ron Deal’s recommendations can help you out.
Nurture your marriage and learn to communicate well.
According to a study of more than 50,000 stepfamily couples, maintaining fun in marriage is the number five predictor of a high-quality stepcouple relationship. Good communication and conflict resolution skills were the number two and three predictors of successful remarriages.
This is new for everyone, so expect to feel lost. Seek understanding and don’t force people to blend, because it takes time. It may even take years for your family to really unite, but it’s better than causing a lot of frustration by moving too quickly. Be patient with the process and have a “slow-cooker” mentality.
Talk with others.
Before you begin, you might want to educate yourself about stepfamily living. Also, ask other stepfamilies about their experiences and the things that caught them by surprise. Find out how they handled the early days.
Help the kids.
When appropriate, encourage biological parents to consistently spend one-on-one time with each child. Since this is also foreign territory for children, prepare them to expect a variety of feelings and encourage them to talk about it. Discuss what to call one another (e.g., stepdad or “George”) and decide how to introduce one another in public. Understand that kids may have different names/terms for stepfamily members depending on who’s in the room. For example, they may call a stepfather “Daddy” unless their biological dad is physically present until relationships stabilize. Don’t pressure kids to use labels that make you comfortable; try to follow their lead.
For sure, keep some old ones (for the kids), but also create a new one in your first year. If you want to help form the missing family identity in your home, put intentional thought and effort into creating that new family tradition. Traditions tell us who we are and where we belong.
how to navigate the holidays as a divorced parent
For so many, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a beautiful season sprinkled with festive events and family gatherings. For divorced parents sharing their children over the holidays with their other parent however, this can be the beginning of a very complicated time.
“I grew up as a child of divorce, was a single mother for eight years and am now remarried,” says author and marriage and family therapist, Tammy Daughtry. “I know firsthand how difficult and chaotic the holidays can be for children going between two homes, not to mention the emotional turmoil that can come from expectations of creating the ‘perfect Christmas.’”
Joey, now 41, recalls his saddest moments of Christmas: seeing his mom cry when he left to visit his dad.
“Like many children of divorce, Joey hated to see his mom fall apart when he left for the holidays with his dad,” Daughtry says. “Thinking that it was his job to make her happy, he felt sad and like it was his fault. He felt guilty about having fun with his father. At 9, he described feeling like he needed to call his mom every day while he was away to make sure she was alright. As an adult looking back, he wishes someone had been there to tell his mom to pull herself together and not place that kind of pressure on him. Joey said the mental image of his mom sitting at home crying, alone and sad caused enough guilt to last more than my lifetime.”
Daughtry not only has personal experience with this issue, but she also works with stepfamilies to help them navigate situations such as these. If you are in the midst of the holidays as a divorced parent, Daughtry’s suggestions can help you make this shared Christmas bright for your children.