There are still a few of us ‘oldies’ who can remember watching the TV show of the perfect blended family, The Brady Bunch. Carol, who had three girls got together with Mike who had three boys and together they created the perfect ‘Brady Bunch’… and they lived happily ever after!
All we need is love — right?
Hah! Those of us who have been down that road, know that it is not so easy. We start out with the warm glow of romance and high hopes for a new start but soon realize that the ‘tang’ can go out of the orange juice pretty fast, especially if children are involved. No doubt about it, blending families is a struggle.
Love can carry you through many challenges, however, you need to prepare yourself for the many struggles and conflicts that will most certainly occur as you blend the families.
Here are a few practical tips to consider before you jump into a second marriage (or if you are already in the middle of the soup).
Remember – You might be in love but your kids aren’t: Even if your kids are/were enjoying spending time with your new love interest and/or his/her kids, it is an entirely different story when you attempt to live together.
1) Talk with your children. Listen and validate their feelings. Kids don’t seem to have much decision-making power, however, they have to live with their parents’ decisions. Don’t assume that the kids will adjust in a short time and love their new family members. It can take many years for kids to adjust and learn to normalize as a family.
2) The children may be suffering from deep grief and loss. They may have resentment toward the step-parent whom they think is trying to replace their bio-parent. They may be full of confusing and conflicting emotions that they are unable to express appropriately. They may believe that the step parent is responsible for the breakup of the original family.
3) Don’t step into the role of authority parent for your step children. Allow the relationship to develop and bond naturally over time, without pressure. Be supportive to the natural parent but don’t assume authority as the kids will resent and remind you often that you are not my real mom or dad.
4) Be aware that your new partner may have a different parenting style from yours which may conflict with your own style. Talk with your partner about parenting styles, expectations, consequences, etc. before you move in together.
5) If you are already living together as a blended family and it is not working as well as you would like, seek help from a family counselor who will help you to set ground rules and guidelines to establish a firmer foundation for your family.
Leila Lanteigne is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and Family Therapist at Agassiz-Harrison Community Services.