Two years ago, a new child came into my life, but not in the manner to which I had become accustomed. This 10 year old was, quite literally, a redheaded stepchild! I’m really fortunate in that my adjustment to being a full time stepmother has been very pleasant. I’ve read horror stories!
I think there are a few things that my husband and I accidentally did right when we become a blended family, and other things I’ve had to learn the hard way. Maybe these tips will help your blended family to experience more peace and fun.
Boundaries will look different for each married couple, and for each stepparent/stepchild relationship. My husband and I have found that the children do best when disciplined, and decisions made on behalf of, by the biological parent. I don’t interfere in his decisions even when I disagree, unless the decision seriously impacts my life – and then it’s a topic of discussion. We believe that it takes time for relationships to grow and blossom. After that happens, it’s appropriate for the stepparent to take a more hands on role.
Boundaries also come into play when it comes to the ex spouses. My husband and I agree to deal with our exes by ourselves, not involving the current spouse. In other words, when my husband’s ex is giving him stress, he deals with it and doesn’t share it with me. I know what’s going on and give him emotional support, but I don’t hash out the nitty gritty details and become enmeshed in their struggle. While some people encourage total openness in marriage, sometimes that brings more stress into the relationship. “Where there is no spark, the fire goes out.” Involving the new mate in the drama left over from the old is a recipe for more stress.
Rituals & Communication
My husband and I began holding family meetings and it’s been a good place for us to communicate about issues that come up. The kids are also happy to express themselves. This has bonded our family and helped prevent misunderstandings. As a married couple, we also constantly work on bringing up grievances to each other when they are minor, before our feelings become difficult to control.
Developing rituals has also bonded our family. Worshiping together, playing games and sports, and doing things in a weekly routine have created an “our family” identify that is separate from the other families the kids are a part of.
Many people go into a second marriage with unrealistic expectations about what the blended family will be like. The adults and kids alike are hurting from the divorce, and the second marriage and family seem to hold a promise of fixing what’s broken. The truth is, what’s broken cannot be fixed. But… something new and wonderful can be created that’s great in its own right.
Reading about the experiences of other blended families can help you adjust your expectations. Getting to know and love a stepchild takes time, but it will come. It’s not the the heady, falling in love feeling you get with your biological kids, but as you spend more time getting to know your stepchild, the affection will come.
Carrie Lauth blogs about her large blended family at Natural Moms Talk Radio. Check out her free podcast on natural living topics!