The statistics for marriage aren’t terribly encouraging–the average rate of marriages ending in divorce is sitting at around 50%. But what about subsequent relationships? Well, those have an even higher rate of failure: 60% of marriages, especially those that blend families from previous relationships, end in divorce. We all know that it is hard to put together two sets of kids and parents with a lot of history and potential for conflicts, but no one enters a marriage intending for it to end. What are some tips for success for blended families? Here is some practical advice to making the transition easier and smoother.
- Learn as much as possible about marriage, parenting and how to blend a family.
- Read books, browse the Internet, use audio and video tools.
- Attend a workshop or conference on marriage, parenting or how to blend a family at least once a year.
Acknowledge and Mourn Losses
- There are losses of all kinds: the dream of a successful marriage, opportunity to
- raise your own children from birth, finances, stability, friends, familiar surroundings, daily contact with both parents, etc.
- Acknowledge that all family members will have experienced significant losses prior to the new family and need an opportunity to grieve them.
- Children often need to be invited to talk about concerns. They may prefer to talk
- with someone other than the parent. Respect this, and allow it.
Have Realistic Expectations
- Instant love and adjustment is not realistic.
- It may take 4 to 7 years to go through the stages of stepfamily development.
- Step relationships will never be the same as biological relationships.
- It’s OK not to love your stepchildren.
- Do not compare family success to a first marriage model.
Be Unified as a Couple
- Put your marriage first.
- View time alone together as a necessity.
- Children benefit from the model of a happy relationship.
- Do not disagree in front of the children – decide in private.
Form Satisfactory Step-Relationships
- Stepparents who define their role with stepchildren as sort of an “aunt” or “uncle”
- type of relationship are usually the most satisfied.
- It is the biological parents’ responsibility to take care of, and discipline, their children.
- Loyalty conflicts are common, and step-relatives do not have to love each other.
- At first, it is best to let the biological parent discipline.
Develop New Traditions and Rituals
- Be creative developing traditions specific to the new family.
- Children may need to hang on to some past traditions that were meaningful.
- Work out innovative ways of dealing with transitions such as holidays or visits.
- Find a supportive church, or other faith based environment.
- Find or organize a Stepfamily Support Group.
- Obtain help from a professional, trained in stepfamily issues, as needed.