Blended families are more common than ever these days. Blended families are most often comprised of parents who have remarried, and each has children. According to the National Stepfamily Resource Center, 75% of divorced people will remarry - and about 65% of remarriages will involve kids from the previous marriage.
Blended families can bring joy and can actually be a lot of fun, but can also be a source of frustration and unhappiness. And, unfortunately, the joy and happiness quite often doesn't just "happen". It has to be worked on - a lot.
Most people do actually want to be good stepparents. After all, if there is tension and unhappiness between you and your stepchild, that is obviously going to affect your relationship with your new spouse. But sometimes people just don't know where to start.
With that in mind, here are 5 great tips on how to become a better stepparent:
1. Don't force the relationship. It may take time for your stepchildren to warm up to you. Don't expect too much too fast. Even if you've know them for awhile prior to your marriage, living together brings a whole new level to the relationship.
Make it known to them by your actions that you want to develop a relationship with them, but let it develop at their pace.
2. Speak well of your spouse's ex. One of the quickest ways to hurt the developing relationship with your stepchildren is to bash their absent parent (your spouse's ex) either directly or in an overheard conversation.
If conflict arises between your spouse and their ex, you should make a concerted effort to stay neutral, especially in front of the children. This can be very hard to do if your new spouse has a contentious relationship with their ex, but is extremely critical to your budding relationship with your stepchildren.
3. Allow your stepchildren to talk openly. This includes letting them speak openly about their absent parent, and what they do when they're away from you, including experiences with their other parent. Also, allow them to reminisce about old times when their parents were still married. Those memories don't just go away, and they may want to talk about fun times or cherished memories.
Also, give them the opportunity to voice frustration or concerns about the new living arrangements and don't take anything personally. This level of change is hard for children and teenagers!
4. Be your stepchild's advocate. Consider your role as somewhat of a mentor. Encourage them in their activities and plans, and make every effort attend all sports events, school plays, or anything else that they invite you to.
5. Set expectations and boundaries. Most children, especially young children, appreciate routine. New living arrangements can be unsettling and scary when there is no "norm". So take time to discuss, as a family, what the expectations and boundaries are for the blended family.
Chores, curfews, homework, etc. are all topics that should be discussed and the expectations and boundries made clear. It's also important to approach this together with your spouse, so it is clear you are a team and not one person is in control of enforcing the "rules".
Expecting courtesy and respect from your stepchildren is completely acceptable and should be communicated as a clear expectation. It can be easy to let this slide because the stepchildren may be angry about their parents' divorce, but certainly don't let them trample your feelings or treat you with disrespect.
Approach these situations with love and acceptance, and in time they will hopefully become more comfortable with the transition and their new blended family.
Children can often feel discarded and overlooked during a divorce, and in a new blended family. Utilizing the above tips will definitely put your new blended family on the fast track to happiness all around.
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