4 Things You Should Know Before Blending Families
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By Gara Hoke Lacy, Esq. , Featured Columnist - August 29, 2016

Blended Family Rules.jpg

 

Blending familiesrequires preparation, dedication, and limitless patience. Are you ready for the challenges ahead? Do you have enough love, respect, and patience?

Below Are 4 Things You Should Know Before Blending Families

1. It takes time to bond as a stepfamily.

The idea of blending a family conjures up the picture of a blender itself. You throw all of the ingredients in, push the button and voila, instant gratification. But blending a family actually looks a lot more like a crock pot. You put all of the ingredients in and turn the heat on low, allowing simmering to take place. Take that analogy to heart.

Researchers suggest that it takes four to seven years to bond as a stepfamily. Variables include the age and gender of the children involved in the new family. Children under the age of 10 are the most willing to accept a new adult into their lives while those between the ages of 11-15 have the most difficult time transitioning. Engage in group activities, share your interests with your stepchildren and given them space to progress at their own pace.

Each individual child is different and will react differently. However, knowing that there are variables involved lessens the pressure of feeling as though you aren’t succeeding in your stepparent role. Remember the slow simmer.

2. Shoot for respect, not love.

Let’s clear the air. The notion of instant love can be a damaging ideal for blended families. Rarely, if ever, is there an instance when stepparents and stepchildren immediately fall in love and live happily ever after. (In fact, the only one that comes to mind is The Brady Bunch.) But that is not to say that your happily ever after is not in the offing but instead, that it is possible with some patience and determination.

Distance yourself from the myth of instant love. Embrace the idea of respect. Respect is an essential building block of healthy relationships. In fact, we learn early in our lives that respect is a way of life. We teach our children to respect teachers, policemen, ministers, doctors, etc. We also must teach them respect in the home. When there is respect in the home, there is peace. When there is respect in the home there is understanding. Both of those characteristics can be building blocks for love. The goal is to provide the right environment for love to develop.

3. Your financial situation may change.

Money. It is cited as one of the major issues causing friction in relationships today. Remarriage and money brings the discussion to an entirely different level. No matter how you manage the money in a blended family situation, even in familial situations where money is delineated between “Yours”, “Mine” and “Ours” there will be times when lines will be crossed. Notwithstanding the organization that you create to ensure that your children are your responsibility and his children will be his responsibility, think again.

No matter how you slice the family pie you are still a family. And that means that even in the most fiscally responsible households, you may end up picking expenses for a stepchild. If there is incoming child support and outgoing child support, it may be necessary to track the expenses for each child. Talk with the kids and your spouse about money. Be clear that you intend to ensure fairness.

4. You WILL be dealing with his ex.

Just because a marriage ends does not mean that the parenting relationship does. If your ex has children with his former spouse and expects to co-parent in a successful way, there has to be communication. Whether it be text, emails, phone calls or in-person contact, it is necessary for information to be exchanged about the kids. In fact, one of the hard and fast rules that divorced spouses need to learn early is that they should not use the children as a go-between.

For better or worse, if your spouse has children you become part of the parenting team and may experience baptisms, graduations, sporting events, and all the other exciting times in the life of your stepchildren which likely will put you in direct contact with the ex. Here’s your warning.

Blending a family can be a daunting experience. No one can fully prepare you for the journey ahead. But with compassion and commitment you can develop strong, familial ties with your stepchildren as you overcome challenges and celebrate milestones.

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