The reason why so many people who are in step-families today get frustrated and give up is because none of them is taught how to deal with the complexities, challenges, and frustrations of everyday step-family life. Men and women remarry or are in a relationship with a partner who has children from a previous relationship and yet they are not prepared for what lies ahead of them.
The first step towards the success of any blended family is knowledge. Once you have the knowledge you are able to start building upon a firm foundation for your family.
Every family is unique and you might experience unique challenges however there are some general guiding principles which i will now share with you that if you get right will make your journey much smoother and comfortable for you and all those involved. You can adapt the information to your own situation.
First things first,
Know what you are getting yourself into.
A lot of people get into step-families with the notion that they will function just like the traditional family they were raised in. This ends up in disappointment because blended families are nothing like traditional families therefore the same principles just don’t work.
Make it your mission to learn as much as possible about marriage, parenting and step-family life. You can find this information from reading books, the internet, audio and video tools. The more you know, the more you are able to decipher and understand your own behavior and reaction to different situations as well as that of your spouse and children.
Acknowledge and Mourn Loss
Step-families are born of loss. The adults are dealing with the loss of the marriage and the spouse whether through death, divorce or separation. The children are dealing with the loss of their parents and the fact that they are no longer under the same roof.
As with any loss in life it takes time for people to grieve and come to terms with their loss. Acknowledge that all family members will have experienced significant losses in their lives prior to this new family and that they all need time to deal with the situation. Be patient.
Children, unlike adults do not know how to voice their emotions. They may act out as a result of not having the opportunity to talk about their fears, how they feel about the situation. As the biological parent take time to speak to them and find out how they feel. More importantly re-affirm your love for them despite the change in family dynamics.
Set Realistic Expectations
There will be no instant love between a step-parent and a step-child. The adjustment will take time for everyone and by no means will the step relationships be the same as the biological relationships. Do not make the mistake of comparing your first marriage/relationship to your current one.
Research has shown that it takes between 4-7 years for a step-family to go through all the development stages so be patient. Let the children be your guide when it comes to the speed of developing a bond with them.
Couple strength and team work
Your marriage needs to come first. Make conscious and deliberate efforts to spend time alone away from the children. Remember that how your children view marriage and relationships with the opposite sex is from years of watching you and your spouse. Children also benefit from the healthy and happy relationship that you have.
Always present a united front in front of the kids. Discuss any differences in opinion privately and once you have agreed the way forward then talk to the children that way they know they cannot play you against each other.
Form your own new family traditions
Family traditions are a big part of any family. When a step-family is formed everyone comes in with their history and old family traditions. Some of them need to be preserved especially if they were meaningful to the children. However, it’s also nice to slowly start forming new ones that involve everyone. These can be in the areas of holidays, vacations, church and other family activities.
Find a supportive church or an organization that caters to step-family needs like Living In Step Africa in Nairobi. By doing so you are able to get help from a professional, trained in step-family issues, as needed as well as meeting other like minded individuals in similar situations and building a strong network of support for each other.