f you've been divorced and dating a new partner for a while, you could eventually decide to move in together or become a remarried couple. If both of you have kids, you may come up against some blending family issues — even if you've introduced the children and things seem to be going well.
You can sidestep potential conflict or misunderstanding by predicting what could go wrong and taking some simple preemptive measures.
In this article, I'll talk about five common problems your new blended family might encounter:
After you've grown accustomed to being divorced — especially if you've been going it alone as a single parent for some time — some factors of married life could now feel foreign to you. And even though you love your new spouse, there's a chance you could have mixed feelings about getting married again.
When I got remarried, all kinds of doubts surfaced. Would this time be more successful than my previous relationship? Is it going to sound crazy to say I've been married twice at my age?
I was also aware of the societal stigma around divorce, and I felt a bit embarrassed to be entering my second marriage and worried that I'd have a difficult time again. Not to mention the additional concerns this time around about our relative co-parenting commitments.
The key to overcoming these worries was to look inward and learn to stop judging myself. Deep down, I felt I was doing the right thing for myself and my kids, and I had to trust that. There's no way to predict the future, and we're all doing our best with the information available to us at any given time.
Change can be scary, and there will always be an adjustment period, but you can get through the awkward early stages of remarriage. If the relationship is right for you, you'll soon feel a sense of ease and fall into the routine of married life.
Tips for addressing your doubts:
You're not alone if you find it hard to see eye-to-eye or start a casual conversation with your stepchildren. If you're walking on eggshells around them, it can help to put yourself in their shoes.
They could be hesitant about whether forming a relationship with you is equivalent to being unloyal to their other biological parent. Even though you may not be asking them to take sides, they could feel pressured to choose.
Your stepkids might have lived a good portion of their lives in a nuclear family arrangement or as children of divorce. Now, they're being asked to accept a stepmom or stepdad — and possibly new siblings — into their lives. Especially if they've had to move or change their routines, it's going to take time for them to adjust.
How you approach a relationship with your stepkids will depend a lot on their ages. Teenagers could have a tougher time with a new stepparent's presence than younger children, and you have fewer years to get to know them. A younger child might be more likely to eventually trust and love you as a stepparent.
Regardless of age, your stepchildren will respond to your authenticity and willingness to show up for this high functioning blended family relationship.
Tips for creating a strong bond with your stepkids:
Some blending family issues are the same ones you'd encounter if you weren't combining households. Namely, arguments over rules and consequences.
Kids generally gripe and push back against parents in a nuclear family dynamic, too, but it can be more difficult to stay consistent if you and your partner are new to step-parenting.
For example, your partner wants to implement an earlier weekend bedtime for your 8-year-old son to align with the time their younger daughters go to sleep. Your son is upset because he was allowed to stay up until 10 p.m. on weekends when you were single parenting.
Because bedtime disparities are something you may not have discovered before moving in together, it wouldn't have been easy to prevent this upset. Now, however, you have an opportunity to compromise and come to a fair resolution for your son.
Tips for preventing disagreements about household rules:
A blended family situation can take sibling rivalry to a whole new level — if you're not diligent about stepping in before it goes too far.
In the early days after moving your families in together, there could be an element of fun and novelty about acquiring new family members. Then, reality often sets in. Your kids might rebel against having to share space and attention with siblings they don't know well yet. They could push their stepsiblings away or pick fights that seem unjustified.
But feeling uncomfortable around new brothers and sisters isn't necessarily rivalry. It could be an indication of emotional turmoil around recent family changes.
You know your children best. If they're getting into squabbles more than usual or otherwise acting out of character, it's probably a sign that they need some support and reassurance. Adjusting to having a stepfamily could simply be the catalyst for a reaction that was bound to bubble to the surface anyway.
Tips for minimizing issues amongst your children and stepchildren:
Busy as you might be trying to make a blended family arrangement work, it's important not to forget to also stay dedicated to co-parenting with your ex-spouse.
This responsibility is a blending family issue many people overlook, but co-parenting has a significant impact on your day-to-day life and can't be ignored.
It can be helpful to establish some co-parenting strategies before you attempt blending families, but it's never too late to try a fresh technique to make things go more smoothly.
One particularly important element to pay attention to as you build your new household is your legally determined parenting time. Be sure to prioritize the time you spend with your child, and don't allow new family responsibilities to take precedence over this time.
If you request frequent schedule changes, start showing up late at pick-ups, or otherwise change your co-parenting habits, your child and your co-parent will get the message that the agreement is not as important to you as your new partner and their kids. That could create a whole host of problems.
Tips for simultaneously co-parenting and step-parenting:
While a lot of families face challenges when trying to come together, there are also many wonderful outcomes of building a new life with people you care about.
Every member of the family plays a unique role. Allowing them to come to terms with the changes on their own time, and staying flexible as your children and stepchildren adjust, will make the ultimate story that much more beautiful.
By co-parenting with compassion, your blended family — as unconventional as it may seem to some — can be as great as you want it to be.
Chelsea is a twice-divorced mom of two boys. She is happily single parenting and doing her best to balance two simultaneous co-parenting relationships. Despite the complications, Chelsea can see the beauty in her story and believes healing is possible for the whole family.