Developing happy and harmonious relationships in any family comes with its challenges, but blending two different families has its own particular bumps and bright spots. It can take several years, or more, for blended families to find setting into routines that are comfortable for everyone.
The early years can be particularly challenging. Not only are new couples getting to know each other and developing their own relationship, there are relationships with biological and stepchildren to nurture as well.
Focus on Individual Relationships
Although some parents are eager to be “one big happy family” early on, it’s often a good idea to take things slow and put more emphasis on nurturing individual relationships. Stepparents need time alone with their stepchildren to get to know them, and learn to appreciate who they are and what they like, away from the rest of the family.
With stepchildren it is imperative to be un-judging, non-critical, and easy going. Spend small blocks (30 minutes) of time with the stepchild and take the time to learn who they are and what they enjoy doing away from the rest of the family. This will allow you to build a bond and have a greater respect for who they are as an individual. During these times it is OK to allow them to do what they want, within reasonable limits and safety.
Support Children in Their Transitions
While nurturing these relationships with your stepchildren it is also important to recognize your relationship with your biological children as well. They are also experiencing a new role and transition into this new family dynamic. Where there may be feelings of uncertainty, parents should take time to reinforce their bond with their biological children.
Laughter and play is not just good for the body, but it can also release emotional tensions. Often in blended families children are being bussed between two homes, with two sets of parents and two sets of rules. The emotional tension from transition and having to adapt to their surroundings is a difficult task for anyone and parents are asking children to do so willingly and gracefully. To help relieve that type of tension one thing is absolutely true: laughter is the best medicine! Where there is an opportunity to be silly or be playful it should be taken advantage of. Both children and parents will benefit from this type of therapy.
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