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Blending Families

Bringing children into a new marriage can be challenging for a couple. While the two of you are madly in love, you can’t expect everyone else to feel that way about their stepparent or stepsiblings. At least, not at first. But with communication, respect, and patience, you and your new spouse can build a happy family.

Before getting married, the two of you should discuss your parenting and discipline expectations. Create a list of values and household rules that are important to both of you. Then discuss how you can work together to teach those values and implement those rules as a united front. One of the most important rules blending families is to expect that everyone be respectful and civil toward each other.

After you’re married, you and your spouse must continue to communicate openly about family issues. Set aside time each week to discuss problems and brainstorm ways to address them together. When it comes to enforcing the rules, however, the bio-parent should take that lead until a strong trust is established between step-child and step-parent.

It’s also important to remember that each child will view this new family in a different way. Your son might be the youngest in your house; but the oldest at his other parent’s house. You may have been a single parent for a long time, and sharing you is new to your child. Your children may be very outgoing, while your new stepchildren are shy and apprehensive. Children of different ages will be at different developmental stages. Providing the children a safe environment in which they can communicate their feelings, concerns and opinions will give them the security they need to develop trust in this new family dynamic and understand their place in it.

Nurturing your relationship with your spouse is also key. Time away from the kids and household responsibilities will help you build a strong marriage. The stronger you are, the easier it is for the children to trust the stepparent. And nurture your relationship with your own children. The more secure your children feel with you, the more secure they will feel in this new family.

The most important thing you and your spouse can give the children is patience. The love, respect and time you give to the other’s children might not be reciprocated immediately. That’s okay. Remember that not all nuclear families get along all the time. Let the children set the pace. But encouraging open, honest and respectful communication between everyone will keep you on track to building a strong family.

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