Building A Blended Family? What To Expect
Blended families are almost replacing the nuclear family these days. If you’re in your forties or fifties, you could be looking around to find that a lot of your friends are divorcing, and already re-marrying. But, of course, many of them had children with their exes, and their new spouses have children with their exes. Everyone’s going in for round two of building a family, but this time, it’s not quite as clean and simple (not that building a family ever really is). When you have a child with a significant other, you and that partner just have to get used to your child. That child knows no other parent, so she adapts to you pretty quickly. She has that strong biological bond thing going on with you, too. But when you take on someone else’s child, not only do you have to get used to being that kid’s parent but he has to adjust to you. And you may be far from what he’s used to. If you’re building a blended family, here’s what to expect.
Coming together on parenting strategies
You’ve had your way of parenting your kids and your partner has had his way of parenting his kids. But if each set of kids has their own set of rules, the home will be chaos; children will constantly complain, “How come he gets to do that and I don’t?” So you’ll have to come up with new strategies you can both agree on. This can take months.
Getting your kids used to those new strategies
Coming up with the new parenting strategies is the easy part. Now you have to undo some of the conditioning you spent so long on in your child—he has to get used to new rules.
Some kids will get more freedom
Whatever new rules you come up with, they’ll be a little looser for one set of kids. That’s bound to happen since, between you and your spouse, one of you was probably a stricter parent than the other. So when the strict one compromises with the not-so-strict one, you wind up with laxer rules.
While others will face more restrictions
Of course, one of you was the more lax parent, and you’ll have to meet the strict parent halfway, too. The children of the traditionally more laid back parent are going to have to get used to a few more restrictions.
More parents than you can handle
If you and your new partner both have children, then you had those children with an ex. So that means you have four parents in this equation. The exes will want to be involved. You don’t just get to start a brand new family and leave the other parents out. There will be a lot of confusion and debate about new rules, who gets to spend the weekends with whom and so on.
Whose house will you live in?
That’s a pretty big decision you’ll have to make. None of your kids will want to leave their homes, but one of you may just have a house that can more comfortably accommodate all of you.
Or, should you move into a new one?
You might consider finding a brand new home for all of you. If you move into one of your existing homes, whichever children moved in there will always feel like it’s somebody else’s house.
You have to re-build comfort
You know that comfort that comes with family? The comfort where you don’t have to speak for hours on end, even if you’re in the same room, and you know you can walk around in your underwear? You’ll lose that for a while. You’ll have to re-build that with your new, blended family.
There will be problems with authority
Naturally, your kids won’t want to listen to your spouse right away and his kids won’t want to listen to you. You should be available to pick up one another’s phone calls as much as possible because you’ll need all the help you can get.
You have to learn a whole new kid
You know your kids inside and out—their likes, dislikes, tricks they play on you, when they’re lying, odd behaviors and more. You have to learn all of this about your partner’s children.
Your child could be jealous of your time
Your child may become jealous of your time and attention. Even if he never wanted that much of it before, now that he feels someone else might want it, he’ll become a bit needy.
And jealous of resources
Your child might also become jealous about resources (toys, beds, clothes, food, toothpaste, etc.). He’s not used to sharing with this many people and wants to make sure he doesn’t get stepped on. He’ll probably overcorrect by being a bit greedy in the beginning.
Make one-on-one time with the new kids
You should carve out some one-on-one time with the new kids. It’s important for them to get comfortable with coming to you for advice and comfort, without their biological parent around. It’s also important for them to understand that sometimes you’ll have to be the boss.
And one-on-one time with your kids
You should also carve out one-on-one time with your own kids. This is a confusing and emotionally rocky time for them. Make sure they know they’re still your number one and they can still have your attention.
You may just have to holiday with your ex
If you think splitting up holiday time with the kids with your ex was tough, just try adding two other people (your new spouse, and his ex). You may all just wind up spending the holidays together—everybody and all their new significant others and their kids—to make things easier.