"Welcome to the hardest thing you will ever do: Be a step-parent and have a blended family."
So says Kris W., a Circle of Moms member who has one biological child and two step children. She's one of many members who feel that parents who expect previously unrelated children to live harmoniously under one roof, à la The Brady Bunch, are in for a rude awakening.
There is some good news, though: many moms who've remarried say that thoughtful planning on the part of both parents makes a huge diffrence when you blend two families. Here, these moms offer guidelines for helping two sets of kids form one household.
1. Acknowledge the Challenges
Children often have a tough time transitioning to their new surroundings, so keep in mind that adjusting to a new step parent and a new house will take some time, says Kris W., herself a step mom. She's one of several moms who say it's normal for parents to struggle with the dynamics of the merge on a daily basis, for years: “Just when you think you have got it down and things have been good for awhile, something will happen to make you feel like you are starting all over,” she shares.
Alicia L. agrees, adding that parents in a blended family should expect that struggle to re-emerge several years in; setbacks can happen even when it seems like the relationships are moving in a positive direction. Alicia discovered this when her children and stepchildren entered their tween years. “When my children were younger they appeared to adjust well to our marriage, but now that they are older they have gotten more opinionated — in a negative way,” she says.
2. Give Kids Time to Get to Know One Another First
A member named Jodi urges moms to take it slow when trying to combine households. "It is never a good idea to move in together until the kids have gotten to know each other," she cautions. "This takes time and it is something to tread carefully and slowly with if you want to be successful at blending a family."
3. Get on the Same Page with Your Partner
When parents remarry and bring kids from their previous families together, each side brings its own discipline rules, traditions, and communication styles. That’s why it's extra important for a newly married couple to get on the same page on everything from bedtimes to curfews. And Yashika W. reminds that both biological and step kids need to receive consistent messages from both parents:
“I have learned that a house divided is a house that will not stand. The kids have to know that there is no division in the house and that no matter what, you and spouse are the adults... . Respect, again respect, is a very important factor as well. It was hard for me as well, but my blended family has learned to adjust. There was coaching on both ends with my spouse and kids. But it has worked out beautifully.”
4. Keep Fights in Perspective
One of the perennial dilemmas of parenting is that kids fight. Biological kids, adopted kids, step kids, kids down the street. Fighting is part of childhood. So when two families try to merge, there will be battles, just as there are in any family situation, reminds Dawnette C. She and her husband, who have moving their four teens in together under one roof, are careful to keep the fights in perspective and pick their battles carefully.
5. Hold Regular Family Meetings
In the process of blending 'yours, mine and ours,' it is especially important that everyone needs to feel heard, especially the children, suggests mom Angela T. One way to do so is hold regular family meetings, and also to make time to listen to each child individually. “My best advice would be to have family meetings and talk out anything that is bothering them,” says Angela T. who has two children from her first marriage, along with her husband’s four children and two children they had together. "We have dealt with the problems and headaches. The two oldest fight just like they are actually siblings, but when it comes down to it they would be there for the other one. You have to listen to their concerns and problems."
Katie P. says she has found that the best way to stay in touch with each child’s feelings in blended families is to make time for each child individually. “It is difficult with working full time and looking after the children and house, but I still try and set aside time for my older son,” says the stepmom of an 11-year-old and mom of her 10-year-old son. “Sometimes it's just talking about school, friends, or looking at stuff on the laptop with him. I know he feels left out, as occasionally he will comment that I'm 'always playing / looking after his brother,' but by letting him stay up later occasionally or taking him out on a regular basis it improves dramatically.”
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.