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.

Become Informed

  • 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.

Get Support

  • 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.