Anyone who is or has been part of a stepfamily can agree that it is both rewarding and challenging. When a couple with children join as a family, not only do they need to find the right fit in a partner, but they also need to find the right fit for each and every member of the family.
Because there will be so many new individual relationships that grow from a union where children are involved, it is important to have some guidelines as to how you are going to encourage positive family dynamics. There are a few things you can do that will better your chance of making your stepfamily a positive experience for everyone involved.
Be Honest and Open
Although being discreet and kind can go a long way, there also needs to be a safe way for children in a stepfamily to voice their concerns and frustrations. Sometimes children can feel like they are out of control in the situation, since they do not choose their parent’s new partner or their new family. Give each child time to speak with you about what they are not happy about, and be sure to respond in a way that encourages them to talk more.
A positive stepfamily is one where all children are treated fairly. Although it is a challenge to blend the rules and habits of two households, it is essential that you find a way to make it all work together. If the children of one parent have a limit on junk food or particular movies, for example, it will be much easier to enforce when everyone has the same rules.
Spend Individual Time with One Another
It is easy to get swept up in a romantic relationship and make it the focus. For the sake of your children, however, it is important that each adult spend one-on-one time with each child in order to develop meaningful relationships. It can be as simple as playing basketball together, or a trip to the ice cream store.
Also, each original family should not be discouraged from spending time alone every once in awhile. While it is good to assimilate families as much as possible, it is also important for a child to keep their relationship with their original parent and siblings. Make time every now and then to do something as a small group.
Respect One Another
Every stepfamily must have respect in order to thrive. This needs to be followed by adults and children alike. Make a rule that respect is non-negotiable, and that each family member should proactively look for ways to show it to others.
Know that there are going to be emotions, and lots of them. Sometimes it may feel like nothing but a huge whirlwind of emotions that is never going to calm down. Show understanding to everyone involved, especially the children. If a child is raging and full of anger, understand that he (or she) may simply be feeling sad about the family he once had and may be mourning the loss. Know that for every outward emotion, it may represent several more that are lying beneath the surface.
Above all, be patient. Creating a successful stepfamily takes a lot of work. It may often seem like the proverbial “one step forward, two steps back.” Keep on trying no matter how tough it gets. Be diligent and you will be rewarded with the fruit of your labor, which manifests someday as the functional, beautiful stepfamily you now dream about.