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Remarriage? Tips for blending families

In a recent article by author, educator and divorce consultant Deborah Moskovitch, we are reminded that real life typically doesn’t follow the same happy-go-lucky storylines we see on television.  Where Mike and Carol Brady were able to enter second marriages and turn their separate families into one big happy bunch, real life is hardly that simple.

Sandy Shuler, a social worker and certified Canadian family educator in Calgary, says:

“Every family is unique in terms of the way it looks and the way it operates. Expecting that there is going to be an instant connection and bonding situation when there are children involved can lead to disappointment and challenges.  Just because the adults are thrilled about the idea of merging does not mean that the children are, so the adults need to go into the situation realistically with their eyes wide open.”

Shuler advises couples to act proactively, tackling issues before blending the family: “Prior to blending, go to a counselor and find out what the likely hot spots are going to be.”

Deborah Moskovitch suggests the following tips for blending families successfully:

Help kids adapt to the new family configuration. Children will belong to two households/families; but they need guidance to adjust to different sets of rules, expectations, and systems.

Bonding takes time. Don’t expect children to love and adore each other or your new partner right away. In some cases, the best thing is to work towards courtesy and respect.  Building caring relationships between children and their new step-parent/family is a process that requires time and patience.

Be open to discussion. Creating opportunities for family discussions, problem-solving and negotiation helps children manage.

Prepare the family for change. Establishing new family patterns, rituals and traditions helps children feel a sense of belonging and shared memories.

Understand the new relationship. Clarifying roles, responsibilities and expectations in the blended family serves as a “road map” with strategies for building relationships and a solid framework for the family unit.

Develop a conflict resolution strategy. Conflict is a part of all families. Combined families have more complex and diverse needs and emotions in dealing with conflict; a solid conflict resolution model helps to address these issues.

Demonstrate your love. Children need reassurance that they are loved and are still a priority to their biological parent, as loyalty issues can arise in blended families.

Discipline your own, and step back for his. The general rule of thumb about discipline is that the biological parent is the one who guides the discipline for their own children when there are step-children living together.  But within one household the rules need to be consistently applied for all children who live there — there should never be two sets of rules.

The bottom line is that what ever you call it—a step family, blended family, combined family—it’s a newly reconfigured family unit. It takes time to bring this new family together, and it takes effort—just remember to resolve conflict, demonstrate love and find the fun.

For more information about Deborah Moskovitch, visit her website at www.thesmartdivorce.com.

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