BLENDING FAMILIES!

SOUNDS SO SIMPLE - BUT IS IT?
By Nily Glaser
©All rights reserved to Nily Glaser 2003


Mine Yours and Ours. Remember the old movie? It was a comedy.
In real life, mine yours and ours is a very serious matter.
Almost half of the marriages today involve kids. His kids, her kids or both.
When a new family is created by marriage the biological and the step parents
have many unanswered questions, many unattended to concerns, many fears and
the knowledge and preparedness to do all within their powers to ensure a
happy blended family where the kids know they belong and are loved and wanted.

How do we ensure that our family will indeed become blended?
You may start with the preparation for, and duties at the wedding.
Involve all the kids and get them as excited as you and your future spouse are.

Read A FAMILY WEDDING - A WHAT? By Nily Glaser

At the wedding ceremony exchange family wedding vows.
Rather than vows only between bride and groom, family Wedding vows
include all family members. That is, the bride, the groom and the children.
Right after the vows exchange and after you exchange gifts,
welcome each child to the family with a special gift of jewelry.
This may follow by a FAMILY unity candle ceremony.

After the wedding, the most important thing is to put your marital relationship first
as your priority and to stand together regarding rules of the household
with all of your kids. In each of the following situations this may be
easier said than done.
  • All the kids live with you,
  • Your kids live with you while your spouse's kids only visit,
  • Your spouse's kids live with you while your kids only visit, or
  • you have split custody with the other biological parents,
  • The other biological parent(s) is/are single
  • The other biological parent(s) is/are married.
    In the latter, most severe situation, your kids would have up to 6 adults
    with different ideas regarding child rearing and discipline, telling them what to do.

    Potentially, you'll have to deal with:
  • Their transitions to/from different households with different house rules?
  • If there was a divorce, the possibility that the "other parent" incites the kids
    against you and/or your spouse.
  • If there was death, kids' anger at the parent who "left them" and anger at "that
    Person" who "tries to take the place of / replace" the diseased parent.
  • Being unable or unwilling to compete with the "other parent" for affection,
    by lavishing the kids with gifts and "whatever they want" and "whatever they do is ok".

    Kids do not need things to know they are loved and wanted.
    Kids need a stable nurturing home where both parents work together
    as a parenting team and support each other's decisions especially regarding
    home rules, traditions and rituals.
    The main issue for your family is to have both of you establish your household rules,
    traditions and rituals.
    Do so together and in agreement and include the kids, especially older kids
    in forming them.
    Have a family meeting or a kitchen table discussion about what members of the family
    would like to do on a regular basis. You might be surprised what ideas come up.
    If reasonable, try these suggestions. Allowing kids to contribute will make it easier
    to enforce these household rules, traditions
    and rituals without the danger of being seen by the kids as demanding, tough or unreasonable.
    Don't let your rules, traditions and rituals waiver, stand together and
    support each other in implementing them. However, remember that as
    children get older and situations change, rituals and traditions may need
    to be adjusted.

    When actual discipline is needed it should first come from the child's own parent
    and not from the stepparent though the stepparent needs to back up their spouse,
    thus establishing for the children a parental and family cohesiveness.
    Your children need to see and experience the strength of your marital relationship,
    your commitment to each other and to them, and the strength and stability of your family.
    They need to regain the security of being loved and wanted.
    Security they lost when their biological parents divorced or in a case of
    a parent's death when that parent "left them".

    When you re-marry you have high hopes and often see everything
    through rose-colored glasses.
    The truth is that your second marriage especially when either one or both of you
    have children, is much more challenging than the first.
    As a new family, you go through phases.

    At first, you will experience "the honeymoon phase".
    This is when everyone is on their best behavior, excited, happy, giddy,
    maybe even showing off for one another. Then comes the second phase, the "honeymoon is over phase".
    This is when reality sets in and members of the blended family begin to realize
    that they don't like something about this one or are jealous of that one or are
    uncomfortable with… and on and on.
    Be prepared for the "honeymoon is over" phase and expect hurt feelings,
    acting out behaviors, tears, and anger.

    Now, you are in a stepfamily, struggling for some sense of family identity. Don't despair.
    It is a normal progression when two families blend into one.
    Realize that it takes time, patience, understanding, respect and a lot of love to instill
    a family cohesiveness and bring up self-assured, secure children.
    Give the kids all you have got. Make it a priority to always be involved
    in every child's life and be there for him or her.
    If the children are of school age, inquire about their day and help them with their
    schoolwork whenever it is needed. Better yet, encourage older children to help
    the younger ones with homework.
    If you can spare the time volunteer to help in the kids classes and always make time
    to be ther for school, sports, and other activities the kids participate in.
    Your involvement and the involvement of all kids in their siblings' life will eventually
    bring bonding and closeness. The results will be rewarding
    and you'll soon forget the difficult times.

    It is very important that you let the children know right from the start that respect
    for both parents and all siblings is paramount. Yet, you must accept the fact that you
    may or may not be able to develop a parental bond with your stepchildren.
    Let your relationship progress naturally. Do not force a parental relationship on them.
    Do all within your power to earn their respect.
    Having achieved this, you start your family blending on the right foot.

    As you strive for a united family, set scheduled time for family togetherness.
    Whether you call it family night, family meeting, family chat, be sure that
    everyone is present and that everyone shares their experiences, and what
    is going on in their life inside and outside the home.
    Let everyone talk about what is on his or her minds and how they feel, without being judged or reprimanded.
    Keep it real simple and age appropriate but do establish open communications and let
    the kids know how you feel as well. Reassure the children, that this is what a family is
    and that in your family everyone does things for the others. Let them know that they are loved
    and that you care for them. Instill in them the realization that all you want is for them to grow up
    in a happy home and feel good about themselves and their family.
    Before long, the kids will look forward to this time together as it becomes part of your
    established blended family ritual.
    As important as family time is, make it clear that any child can come to you on a one on one
    whenever they feel the need or want to discuss or tell things in private.
    Bear in mind that children have a past. They also have feelings.
    If these feelings are stifled, children may feel that they are being forced into
    a "new" family to replace their "old" family.
    This in turn will bring forth resentment, anger, frustration and hurt. Therefore,
    it is important that the children understand that they are allowed to hang onto the memories
    of their previous family, remember them with joy, feel happy about those times that came before
    or sad that they are no more, and know that it is "OK" to recall, remember and even
    share them aloud with each other.
    Through this sharing, and as they get older, they will begin to understand
    and realize that in the "new " family they are building new relationships and
    creating new memories, not replacing those they already have.
    Let each child, if age and ability appropriate, an opportunity to contribute to the family.
    Give each child tasks and responsibilities. They may resent it at the
    moment but thank you as they reach adulthood.

    So far all seems too serious. It is! But family life is not all seriousness!
    Make time for fun, and do so often.
    Children need individual attention. Give each child your undivided attention as individuals.
    Just you and that child. Get to know each child yours and your spouse's.
    Give each child opportunities to get to know you.
    With all that, do no ignore each other. It is just as important, that you make sure
    you set aside time for each other, to foster your love and marital relationship.
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