One of the major challenges within your blended family will be how to bond your stepchildren with your own children. We all have that ideal fantasy, The Brady Bunch blended family: where at the end of the day, all of your children will love and respect each other.
Unfortunately the reality is they may not even like each other. And as parents you may feel like there’s nothing you can do about it.
In our blended family we have 5 children, currently all under 10 years old.
I have 2, my husband has 3, and we share the care of all 5 with their other bio parents. Over a fortnight we have time with just mine, time with just his and time with all 5. Initially, blending our children was difficult; both my husband and I had to spend some time thinking about how to blend, along with meeting the needs of all 5 children – who are very different little people!
Blended families: Can’t we all just get along?
Every child needs a space that’s their own
It doesn’t matter if your stepchild is with you every other week, or only once a month, you need to make sure they feel like this is their home too.
All children in blended families have 2 homes, so giving them a bed, dresser, clothes, toys that is just for them will make them feel like they are important too. I realise this may seem impractical, but make it so, and work out a way to make it work within your family.
As adults we make choices that affect our children’s lives, so it’s important to do what we can to make sure they feel they’re not forgotten.
If they’re coming from their other home to their second home and have a space that belongs to them, you give them a sense of belonging within the blended family. This will not only help the child feel wanted but also help with any potential feelings of resentment towards any step-siblings that call this their first home.
Every child needs their space and belongings respected
Part of our family rules are to respect each other’s belongings. You must have permission to use anything that is not yours.
We reinforce this rule whenever possible, even in small situations, always insisting they ask their siblings/step-siblings before using any of their things.
This helps create trust within the family, they can go off to their other home feeling like their belongings are kept safe.
Support problem solving
We have meetings to solve problems the children can’t work out themselves. Always give children a chance to try and solve the problems between themselves, even with some small guidance with what words can be used.
But if it’s too big or a child is too emotional to work it out on their own, have a meeting where each child gets to have a voice in a respectful way.
Hear both sides of the story, empathise with all the children involved and support them to work out the problem together. In our family wherever possible we pause everything for meetings/problem solving and will not move on without the problem being resolved.
If necessary we can take 5 to gather our thoughts but solving the issue is the priority.
Most blended families like ours are big…. 5 children in one household means 5 very different personalities. Remember to treat them that way.
They’re all individuals with individual needs and wants. We talk regularly about fairness, fairness doesn’t mean that you all get the same thing, it means that we meet all your individual needs.
Some get the idea that in a blended family you must always give all the children the same things, all the time. Would you do the same in a nuclear family? No, I wouldn’t, so why would I in my blended family if it wasn’t just to please onlookers that think that is the right thing to do.
Think about all your children’s talents and passions and do what you can to show them that you’re interested in them as individuals.
The library is great, currently we have one child that loves cats and another that loves diggers, a quick trip to the library for some cat and digger books to read with them shows that their interests are important to you.
Make sure the balance of time works for all your children
One of the best things we’ve done is balance our time with the children so they all get time with their bio parent.
This was a challenge, as I’m sure it is in most blended families. We have one side with a parenting order signed via the family court and one side that we’ve worked out as a personal arrangement. Thankfully the personal arrangement was made to fit the parenting order so both my husband and I have time with our own children.
We love having a big blended family and our family weekend when we’re all together is a lot of fun however our children need time with their bio parent.
When you have children coming from their other home and they have to share their bio parent with their step-siblings and husband/wife the entire time you may end up with resentment.
Part of the balancing act of time, you must factor in family time.
Including rituals is a good way to make this family time a regular thing. We have family movie night, every Friday night that we’re all together. We rotate between takeaway meals and homemade finger food, but we always eat together in front of a family movie.
Finding movies that interest all your children can be a challenge and sometimes takes me longer than I’d like to admit but it’s always fun to just be together. We also have a regular dinner at Nana’s with family and a family day out. All these rituals bring us closer together as a family.
Your goal as parents shouldn’t be to make your children love or even like your stepchildren. You goal only needs to be that they’ll respect each other.
It is okay for them not to be friends but it is not okay for them to not respect one another.
The best way we can help our children during the transition into a blended family is to work hard to eliminate resentment. Resentment will be the thing that creates the disrespect and potential chaos in any family, blended or not.
If you can keep resentment out of your family relationships, you’ll have the potential for a successful blended family.
Check out our articles on Step-parenting for more great advice on running a successful blended family.