Caring for Family

Making a Blended Family Work

Making a Blended Family Work

"The Brady Bunch" sure made blending families seem like an easy task. But in reality, maintaining healthy family dynamics is a delicate balancing act. There's the relationship you have with your spouse, then there's raising the children you have together and children you may have from prior marriages. Bringing so many people together as a new family can be complicated — and stressful — but a more harmonious home is possible! Here are 10 things you can do to help make it happen:

  1. Be realistic. Know that it may take some time to find your groove. Stepchildren may not warm up to a stepparent for a while, which can be stressful and leave you feeling hurt Hard as it may be sometimes, try to keep a positive attitude and keep working at strengthening these new relationships.
  2. Let the children set the pace. If you're a stepparent, take your cues from the stepchildren on how fast or how slow they want the relationship to progress. Also expect that a child's acceptance of a stepparent can depend on his or her age — for example, a young child is likely to be more accepting than an adolescent.
  3. Figure out the new rules and put them in writing. This new family is a whole different ballgame with new players, so spell out chores or what is expected of each family member and post the list on the fridge or other visible place.
  4. Leave discipline to the parent. If you're a stepparent, hold off on the disciplinarian role. Instead, approach your new role more from a friend or camp counselor position. Be a trusted figure for the child and let your partner know that you'll be monitoring the child's behavior, but any punishment should be handed out by Mom or Dad until you have a more stable bond with the child.
  5. Ensure respect and civility. Stepchildren may not take to a new parental figure in their lives so easily, and they may not feel affection toward that person anytime soon, but each family must be respected and parents need to make that clear.
  6. Be a good listener. Make your home an environment where everyone can feel comfortable expressing their feelings or concerns. Trying to see things from the child's perspective can help strengthen your bond.
  7. Value the right for individual time together. Encourage one-on-one time for everybody, whether it's parent and child, stepparent and stepchild, or parent and parent. By working to strengthen individual bonds, you're working to strengthen the entire family unit.
  8. Make children feel welcome. Maybe you and your spouse only have your children every other weekend. You still need to make your house feel like home. Designate space for them to put their belongings, so they don't feel like visitors.
  9. Seek help. Sometimes intervention by a neutral third party, such as a psychologist or counselor, can help families work out differences and grow stronger.
  10. Be patient. According to the American Psychological Association, it can take anywhere from two to four years before a blended family is able to adjust.