If you’re divorced with children and pursuing a relationship with someone who also has children, it’s not easy mixing your two families. After all, families are not built overnight! If you’re struggling to figure out how to encourage the kids to like each other, this article is for you.
1: Limit Your Expectations
Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s unlikely that your kids will immediately form a strong familial bond with their step-siblings. That’s okay — some distance is normal and healthy — and trying to force friendships is a great way to alienate your children. It’s possible to encourage the children to like each other, but always temper your expectations with a dash of realism.
Remember, even blood siblings go through periods where they can barely tolerate each other! Expecting your newly blended family to become the best of friends is not particularly realistic.
2: Allow The Children Plenty Of Freedom
Be patient! It’s important to take things slow in a newly blended family — let the children discover common ground by themselves. If the children are especially young (under 10 years of age), they may adjust quicker than you expect.
Adolescents and teenagers may require more time to adjust to the new family dynamic and are not as open with expressing their emotions. That’s okay — teenagers have a lot going on — and it’s important to give them space.
The more you allow you and your partner’s children room to explore and develop their own relationships, the better.
3: Plan Family Activities and Create Traditions
Family activities are great because they provide opportunities for communication. Fun family activities get both ‘sides’ of the family invested in forming new interpersonal relationships.
Great family activities include:
- A house tour and ‘moving in’ game
- Celebratory ice cream and movie night
- Laser tag or another team-based activity (try children vs. adults, it’s always a blast)
The goal here is to get the children to communicate on topics that don’t seem like ‘work’. The more your children interact during fun, family-based activities, the quicker they’ll form meaningful connections.
New family traditions (or reinventing old ones) are an excellent way to get step-children invested in the family. If Sunday is pizza night, consider adding a twist (pizza and pie, perhaps) that makes it a new experience for everyone. The more your step-children become entwined in new traditions, the quicker they’ll bond.
4: Boundaries Matter
Sit down with your spouse and figure out some basic rules of conduct. Discipline is important — especially for young kids — but expecting a new stepfather to immediately begin disciplining his step-children is not realistic. Take the time to develop interpersonal bonds before moving to the role of disciplinarian.
Of course, rules must be applied fairly and consistently. Everyone must abide by the rules of your household, no matter who the biological parent is. Step-children get along much better if they know no one is playing favorites!
5: Become a Positive Role Model
Blending two families places incredible stress on your children. They feel pressured to form familial bonds with people they have no relation to — that’s not easy. Don’t underestimate the stress your children are experiencing.
Children love to emulate a positive, successful role model. Present yourself as a rational, fair, and likable new parent and you’ll be surprised at the results. Avoid talking about former spouses in a negative way and show the children that everything will work out.
Take A Breath
Blended families come with their own sets of challenges. Remember that you’re undergoing a challenge that millions of other families have already beaten. Give the children space, temper your expectations, and take the time to plan some fun regular family activities. The results will speak for themselves.