How to make the transition into step parenting easier for a new family.
Bringing two families together and forming a happy peaceful stepfamily is not easy. In fact, it is probably somewhat unrealistic. Stepfamilies can eventually find a common ground where both the parents and children are content; however the relationships will take time and patience. The “perfect” family does not develop overnight, as the Brady Bunch displayed.
Once the couple has decided to get married and combine their two families, it is imperative that they discuss their ideas and goals for the impending marriage: What values are important in their relationship, what kind of relationship do they have with their former partner, what financial affairs does each one have, where will they live, and which children do they have custody of and their visitation rights. Once they discuss these issues, it will aid to prevent future problems.
If at all possible, it is preferable that the family buys a new house together so no one feels resentful that they had to move into the other person’s house and leave all their belongings behind. I realize that this idea may be financially impossible for some people, so lacking finances, it is important, to have at least have space for each child to store some of her belongings whether she lives there permanently or just visits on the weekends. I am part of a stepfamily and my dad and step mom bought a house together about a year after they were married and I was really excited because I finally got to have my own room when I visited.
The natural parent and the step-parent must still take time to strengthen their own relationship, especially in the beginning when things may be a little rocky at home. The children may sense they can play one parent against the other so it is extra important they keep a united front on rules and discipline.
It is very important to keep peace in the family that rules and the consequences be consistent for all the children, both live-in and visiting. Parents should not be more lenient on the visiting children, just because they want those children to like them. If they do that, it will be unfair, and a battle of sibling rivalry will break out.
While children may not like rules or chores, they may like to be more involved in making decisions, and less likely to blow up at their step-parent, if they did help develop the list of chores they would be responsible for completing. If they live there, they should have some responsibility, and if they are a visiting child, helping out makes them feel like part of the family quicker. Besides the more people that chip in to do the work, the more time the family will have to go out on family outings to have fun.
Every family has traditional fun outings. It is important for stepfamilies to find their niche of something the family likes to do together. It could start off as something simple as Friday night Pizza and Movie night to a day at the zoo, to summer vacations at the beach. Basically, the family is trying to create new traditions for this new family while promoting some bonding.
Step-parents should also try to bond with their stepchildren one-on-one. Similar to the family outings, the two should try to find a mutual activity they both enjoy and spend the day enjoying each other’s company and getting to know one another better. It might include spending the day in a nice park, learning how to cook, or going out to lunch.
Family meetings also work well for the family to discuss how each one thinks things have been going, or if someone has an issue to discuss. These are done in calm, non-threatening way, and each person gets a chance to speak and make their point, so children get their views heard as well as the parents. These could be held weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, whatever works best for the family. Anyone who had an issue before the next scheduled one could feel free to call an unscheduled one.
In order to achieve strong relationships in a stepfamily, all parties must be willing to work at it and to communicate honestly and openly. Only with time and patience can a truly special connection be reached.