When single parents think of dating and possibly getting married or re-marrying, they only think about getting someone who loves their children and hardly of being a part of blended families. However, life as we know it is hardly ever black and white and comes with its own twists and turns meaning that you might just find yourself in such a family.
Lately, I have met potential suitors who have children from other relationships. That is when it hit me that I may just be part of a blended family and how would that be like? So I set to find out and share with other single parents on what to expect. Blended families are created when two people with children from previous relationships or marriages get married.
Just as with any other couple in love, you and your spouse may be so blind and happily in love that you might not be aware of the kind of work that you might have to put in for your family to work.
A reason for this is that your children may not be too excited about sharing you with another person or other siblings. They may have to share their space with people they do not know or like. In some instances, one family may have to go and join another family in a new city or a new country.
This will mean a new home, school, friendships, culture, food, language, new roommate, and way of life. Honestly, this might be too much for the average adult let alone children.
What to Expect
When such families come together, expect conflict on a daily basis as the two families get to know each other. There might also be some hostility towards the new parent as the children who were harboring dreams of their parents reuniting may realize that it is not going to happen.
Sometimes the parents may end up siding with their biological children which may cause conflicts between the spouses and the kids as well. Sometimes it might feel like you are side stepping landmines in everything you do.
What is the Way Forward?
There is a popular saying that goes like you might take the cow to the river but you can never force it to drink water. Parents in this situation need to realize that they can introduce their families but they cannot make their kids fall in love with the new parent in their life immediately. Taking baby steps is the best way to go taking into account the situation at hand. In such instances, it is better to,
- Step in the role of mentor and friend and not a parent. It is safer to start by these roles which will give both parties time to learn each other and fall in love with each other. Patience is key at this point.
- They should not be in a hurry to ask family members to let go of the memories of their loved one who no longer lives with them. To be fair with the new spouse, the children should not also erect some kind of shrine for their parent who does not live in that house.
- In the case of older parents, the children may be married or living on their own which may make bonding difficult for everyone. In such cases, the step children and new spouse may have to try harder to bond because of the distance. For such cases, they can use family meetings, parties, get-togethers, emails, cards, calls, and letters.
- Issues of inheritance make come up as well especially if there is too much at stake. This may create tension with one family seeing the other as gold -diggers just after their money. In such a family setting, it may be wise by having proper communication channels, sharing the family keepsakes in advance and making clear decisions on how to share property.
- Spending time together for both sets of families can help them know each other and actually start liking each other. If you have young children you can go to theme parks, movies and so on. If they are older you can take them for some of the sports that they enjoy or go shopping with them and so on.
- Parenting should be done as a team and both spouses need to sit down and discuss how they are going to parent together. Both of you may need to make some changes and accommodate some of their styles each used in their previous settings. This will help to make the style in parenting not too new for the children.
- Ensure that everybody in the house respects each other. They do not have to love each other and you cannot force that but you can insist on respect.
- Sometimes you may find yourself in the middle having been put there by your children and your spouse who are on opposing teams. If you find yourself in such a situation you should not allow them to give you ultimatums. Make them understand that they are both important in your life and you want them in it for as long as you live.
As you try to navigate the tricky waters of blended families, you need to remember that children that came from troubled homes, single parent homes that have lost a parent need to feel safe and secure.
Given prior experience, they may not be in such a hurry to give someone else a chance. You can, however, win them over gradually. They also need to feel affection and that you value them as they may feel invisible in a new and crowded setting as compared to what they were used to in the beginning.