When you are dating a man with children, at first, it seems easy, however as soon as you get married things change drastically. I have to say the first year is like being on a rollercoaster full of ups and downs. After you reach the five-year mark things start to blend nicely and settle down, but just getting there is going to take a lot of sweat, patience, time and tears. I put together a list of 21 topics of the most common concerns in a blended family to help prepare you for your journey into becoming a successful blended family. Please know that you may or may not go through some of these, however, chances are you will face all of these at one time or another. I am going on seven years of my third marriage, so I know I have faced all of these at one time or another. Just remember you do not have to do this alone, there are many Stepmom groups out there that can help walk with you through your journey.
Unrealistic Expectations – Try not to have any unrealistic expectations when going into your blended marriage such as the stepchildren calling you Mom. They have a Mom already and it’s just not you. Do not force them to call you Mom either. Expect the unexpected to happen when being in a blended family. If you are expecting to be recognized for Mother’s Day, you need to say something to your husband about it, don’t just assume he knows how you feel. Don’t expect the stepchildren to get you something for Mother’s Day, they already have a Mother and you’re not it. If they do recognize you, make a big deal about it. There is more to learn about expectations and discovering the difference between unrealistic and realistic expectations by clicking here.
Hard Adjustments – The Stepchildren will have a hard time getting used to a different house, different rules and getting used to having a Stepparent. It’s even harder if there is a difficult biological mother that may put the children through PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome). Even though the Stepchildren may not say it verbally but they really wish their parents would get back together. Given the fact that you married their Father they may be mad at you and resent you for that. You also have to remember that the divorce of both of their parents is like a death to them. They process divorce a lot differently than us adults do. Over time things will change and your Stepchildren will adapt to the blended family. Some Stepchildren take longer than other Stepchildren. If you are noticing them withdrawing from their regular activities they once loved to do, doing poorly in school, isolating themselves, depressed or have sudden outbursts of anger, it’s time to consider taking them to therapy. Seeking out therapy for your Stepchildren would really help them to be able to express their feelings and work through them.You can learn more about PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome) and Blended Therapy by clicking on the words. For more information about how to overcome hard adjustments, click here. Money Matters – When dealing with money issues, you need to understand that even though your husband pays child support that doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be additional costs. Expect additional costs for sports or other after school activities that the stepchildren are involved in or even doctor bills where the insurance only pays so much. When paying for extra things for the Stepchildren, pay money owed directly to the bill and not just give cash to the biological parent that way you know for sure that the money is going to the right thing. When trying to figure whether or not to combine bank accounts, please click here to read more about money matters.
Challenging Situations – Let’s face it when combining two sets of kids along with ex-spouses, there’s going to be some challenges along the way. A few examples of these challenges are picky eaters, sharing toys, house rules, chores, and even taking family pictures. You need to learn what things to let go of and what things need to be resolved. Also learn to know what things you can can change and accept the things you cannot change. Learning to how to compromise is definitely key in getting through the challenging situations that come up. Learn how to compromise without feeling like your giving into the child’s ways may be hard to do. When faced with a challenging situation try to offer two compromises or options to the child. Trying to find resolutions that benefit the whole family is important.
Chosen Love – Is a love that will develop over time with your Stepchildren, it will not happen overnight. Chosen Love is a different kind of love than the love you have for your biological children. Chosen love may be better because it takes a lot of work and time to achieve. The older the Stepchildren are the longer and harder it takes to develop. It’s not something that can be rushed. To learn more about what it takes to achieve chosen love, click here.
Blended Family Therapy – In the first year of a blended family, I totally recommend seeking therapy to help with issues that may come up that are hard to resolve. It’s better to be prepared and educated on different areas of a blended family than to go in without any knowledge. You don’t have to do this alone; there are a lot of great books that can help along with great Blended Family Therapist. To read more about the benefits of therapy click here.
Fun with Stepchildren – Try to do at least one fun family actvity during your time with all the children in the family. Over at my house, we call it Family Day/Night on Saturdays. Every Saturday we would randomly draw one family activity out of our “Fun Box” and do whatever the activity is. The kids love the fun box because they got to put their own suggestions of fun actvities into the box of what they would like to do. To learn more about how to create your own “Fun Box” click here or to get ideas on what fun things you can do with your children, click here.
Bumps in the Road – The first five years of a blended family has bumps in the road. The bumps in the road are what make you stronger as a blended family. It’s inevitable that there’s going to be a conflict that will arise. Find out how to resolve the bumps in the road and what things to avoid by clicking here.
Feeling like an Outsider – There will be times where you the Stepparent will feel like an outsider in your own home. For example: when the Stepchildren are talking about something that happened in the past. Always try to find a way to include yourself in the conversation or just change the topic into something that happened when you were in their lives. There will also be times where your Stepchildren feel like they don’t belong when they are visiting for the weekend. Try your best to make their presence known in the house; one way to do this is to have many pictures up of them around the house or artwork they created. To learn more about how to cope with this, click here.
Loyalty Conflicts – Stepchildren’s loyalty always remains with the parent they live with the most. They will always speak the good of them and protect them no matter what they do wrong to them. Stepchildren often feel like it’s a tug-of-war between your house and their Mother’s house. In order to gain a Stepchild’s loyalty, you need to have an emotional attachment to the Stepchild. Emotional attachments take time to develop. Loyalty conflicts for Stepchildren can be emotionally destructive at times. Try to respect their loyalty to their mother just like they have loyalty to their Father when they are at their Mother’s house. To learn more in depth about loyalty conflicts, click here.
Difficult Ex-Spouses – Nine out of ten times you will have a difficult biological mother to deal with. The biological mother will tend to hate you automatically. Sometimes it may feel like the biological mother has more control of what goes on in your house than you do. There are ways of trying to overcome it and change it around. Please read the talk and the other woman to learn how to change it around for the better.
Boundaries – Need to be established early on in your marriage in order to protect privacy and personal space. To learn more about how to establish boundaries, click here.
Share Husband – Make sure you always make time for the Stepchildren to spend 1:1 time with their Fathers else they will feel resentment towards you and say that you took their Father away from them. To read more about establishing 1:1 time and why it’s vitally important, click here.
Step Sibling Rivalry – There is going to be times where all or some of the children will not get along. Don’t be alarmed and think that’s it’s not going to work out. It’s normal for children to have a conflict with one another. Every child is unique and different from one another. It’s going to take time for all of the children to get comfortable and used to one another. Don’t rush it; it will go at its own pace. What helps two sets of children bond is doing family activities together. When faced with sibling rivalry it’s best to separate the children that are not getting along. If things continue, it’s best to have a sit-down and have a family meeting to address the issues and try to resolve it. Don’t overlook issues because they will only get worse, always address issues and work through them.
Discipline – In the first two years of marriage, I recommend that each parent is responsible for disciplining their own children until a bond and trust forms with the Stepparent. Disciplining one another’s children too soon will result in children hating and despising their Stepparents. As Ron Deal and Laura Petherbridge said that it is a misstep to insist on a rigid structure in the home that differs from what the children are used to. You and your husband may have been raised differently and it may be hard to enforce fair discipline. To learn more about discipline and how to be successful at it, click here.
Jealousy – There will be times where the Stepchildren will be jealous of you and their Father’s relationship or even jealous of their step siblings. The stepchildren tend to feel this way because of fear of being replaced. To help try to avoid this from happening try to make sure your stepchildren are getting enough 1:1 time with their Father that way they still feel connected to him. They will feel more secure with their relationship with their Father if they are getting enough quality time with just him. Always try to encourage your husband to take the time to spend with his children without you around. You as a Stepmom should also spend 1:1 time with your own children to prevent jealousy on that end too.
Guilt Parenting – Happens a lot with Fathers where they feel like they want their children to have a good time at their house, therefore, they struggle with correcting bad behavior and often times do not punish them when they need to be punished. The Fathers it happens with most are the Fathers who are the ones that go the divorce. They often feel guilty for seeing their children’s pain or hardship from the divorce. Often times, these Fathers are “Disney Dad’s” where they buy everything and anything for their children to make them happy. Us as Stepmoms can’t make our husband’s parent their children but we can offer up suggestions and point out why he might be overlooking issues with his children. If your husband struggles a lot with guilt parenting, it’s best that he seeks therapy. Another great idea is buying some books on guilt parenting and setting boundaries with children. There is a great book called “Boundaries with Kids” by Cloud and Townsend that I think would really help educate him on how to overcome guilt parenting. To learn more about how to talk to your husband about guilt parenting, click here.
Co-Parenting – Learning how to be a successful co-parent with an ex-spouse is crucial for the well-being of all of your children. Being supportive, flexible, respectful are just some of the guidelines of how to become a successful co-parent. To learn about more guidelines on how to be a successful co-parent, click here.
Small Victories – First off, they do happen often more than not. Examples of small victories would be when all of the children are getting along or even when a Stepchild is getting along with you, the Stepmom. Cherish the victories when they come and discover how they happened so you can try to repeat them.
Shared Time – It can be very difficult to share time with an ex-spouse especially during the holidays or other celebrations. If you alternate holidays and celebrations write it out on paper and have both parents sign it to say they agree to it. Plan vacations, at least, six months out and give plenty of notice to the other parent that way you are able to have the children for the vacation. It’s all about compromise and trying to make the best of the situation. You need to learn to accept that some things you can change and some things you cannot change and try to be okay with it. For example Christmas can be celebrated on a different day, it’s just a day, don’t make a big deal out of not being able to see the children on that day. Just make your Christmas on another day instead and make a big deal out of that way. Make sure when communicating about special plans and dates of upcoming events make sure to send an email that way you have a paper trail.
Rewards – The rewards will come later down the road when you realize and know your role as a Stepparent. When there is less stress in the children that’s when it will bring more harmony to the blended family and in your marriage. In Galatians 6:9 it says “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up”.
I hope these 21 topics of the most common concerns in a blended family help you with your success in your Blended Family. Just remember it takes a lot of time, sweat, tears, patience, love, compromise and prayer in order to be a successful Blended Family. Don’t give up hope, your victory lap will happen soon and then you will know it was all worth it.
Ron Deal & Laura Petherbridge (2009). The Smart Stepmom. Practical Steps to Help you Thrive. Published by Bethany House a division of Baker Publishing Group.
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