Nine years ago, I never expected to fall in love with a man with kids.
That’s why I told my friend, “I couldn’t date him. He has kids.”
I was young and free, and didn’t know what being a blended family would be like. Fast forward to now in our sixth year of marriage: there are days I feel blessed to be in a ready-made family … and days I find it disheartening. Instead of throwing in the towel at every bump in the road, I try to focus on what I can control (me!), how I can help, and how Mr. Right and I can improve our marriage and family.
Maybe you entered into a new marriage with high expectations, only to find out that real-life relationships are a bit more complex. Maybe you’re a new step mom wondering if the highs and lows of parenting are normal. Today, I want to share some tips that will help you stay realistic within a blended family:
Don’t expect your blended family to feel like a nuclear family. You have a different set of challenges to deal with. It’s normal to gaze with wistful eyes toward parents who’ve never raised kids with emotional scars from divorce; who’ve never had to communicate with The Ex; who’ve never had to answer to a kid who screams, “I want to live with my mom!” That family not your family. In time, you can adopt a mindset where that is okay.
Fact: Stepchildren will never treat you the same as their biological parents. They can love you endlessly and appreciate you, but you are in a different role. Sometimes, this can be an even bigger role than a bio parent, but you should be prepared that the kids will treat you in a different way.
Don’t expect perfection. Harness the power of compassion and give everyone time to grow. You are all starting over – starting fresh – and there will be growing pains.
Don’t compare yourself to The Ex. You are both unique individuals with different life experiences. Your children will be lucky to have the love and wisdom all parents can offer.
Remember to communicate openly and honestly. As your step kids grow older, they will ask questions about the divorce and custody and child support. I definitely don’t think kids need to know everything about their parents’ problems – but I also believe trying to shield them from reality can make them more confused. Kids are very intuitive. Depending on their maturity level, it may be possible to talk openly about sensitive issues. (Tip: Stick to the facts and leave your emotions out of the discussion.) Use your best judgment here.
Don’t do it alone. Reach out to a counselor and other blended families for support and guidance as your family is forming.
Don’t burn out. Continue to do things you love. When times are tough, take time out to rejuvenate – have lunch with a friend, plan a date night, exercise, eat right and get enough sleep.
Don’t expect a fast fix. Psychologists say it takes four to eight years for a remarried family to “gel” and feel like a family. Remember to:
Live in the present, and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering. – Ida Scott Taylor
How do you stay grounded through the ups and downs in your family?