Relationships are dynamic, ever changing, and rarely if ever, static. That’s good! As people we are simply complex. What we say we will do and what we actually do, does not always end up being the same thing. Good intentions don’t always mean good follow through. Add our history, personality, present situations, view on life, and our own personal experiences – all that is good, the bad, and indifferent – and well, taking a cue from Facebook, it’s complicated!
People, as an individual or in the context of a family, create a groove, their own and unique way of doing things, an ebb and flow to their life that can feel seamless, despite the ups and downs of life. They bring expectations, both said and unsaid, a history, and family traditions. So, when a new family with children is added to the mix, often with varying ages and developmental needs, the term “it’s complicated” takes on a whole new meaning.
Yet, what might appear unclear and feel really daunting at times, can be managed and dealt with more effectively when the new couple actively works together with a mutual commitment to making their new family work – whatever that new family might look like.
Although there are no hard and fast rules, there are approaches that help families “blend” more successfully…
1. Remain open and flexible in your thinking as this will help create closeness and build healthy relationships. Just because something worked in the past, doesn’t mean it will work the same way in the present.
2. Building relationships takes time. Lots of time. Family members, especially children, are getting to know you just as much as you are getting to know them. Do not rush into creating a relationship; let it have a natural affinity on its own that can be developed. Developing a new relationship by taking a step back will make it feel more organic, less forced.
3. Be kind and loving to yourself. Sometimes this is challenging because we start to feel bad if things are not going in the direction we assumed we would.
4. Create new traditions. Consider everyone’s input in order to make each person feel included. Give everyone time to adjust to these new traditions, as well.
5. Nurture the relationship with your spouse or partner. Although helping everyone to adjust is important, remember to remain focused on nurturing your relationship. Having a strong foundation in your relationship will help you work through the challenges that can often arise.
6. It takes time for families to bond and figure out how the new family will work and function together. The roles will change and possibly change again, which will create another dynamic.
7. Connecting with one another doesn’t have to be a daunting task, over the top, or something to the “nth” degree. Go for a walk, read a book together, or talk to them while dropping them off to be with a friend. These are the kinds of things that provide time to nurture the relationship without overkill.
8. Look at the blended family as a family within a family and that you and your kids need your own time together. Work hard to honor this. This is will help with the transition. Respecting and cherishing the original family may help everyone become more accepting of the new family.
9. Don’t fall for some of the myths: That it’s easy and that kids “will adjust.” You don’t have to put the time in to it. If it doesn’t blend well, there is no hope. Love occurs naturally between stepchild/parent. Children of divorce are damaged forever. Kids will be happy about the remarriage. You will not make the same blunders as before. Blended families function just like traditional families. False, false, and false.
Despite or in spite of the challenges that blended families encounter, there is often incredible love, happiness, and hope.
Hope for the present. Hope for the new family. Hope for a different future.
Every family has its own personal journey…