As part of our Blended Family Friday series, each week we're spotlighting a different stepfamily to learn how they successfully blended their two families. Our hope is that by telling their stories, we'll bring you closer to blended family bliss in your own life!
If there's one thing the families we've featured in our Blended Family Friday series can agree on, it's that raising a stepfamily is no easy feat. With the year coming to a close and a new one about to begin, we thought we'd take a moment to reflect on some of the best advice they shared in 2013.
1. Give each person time to accept the new family.
While you may adore your spouse, it's important to realize that love between new family members isn't always so quick to materialize, our reader April suggested. . "I struggled with a lot of guilt because of this in the beginning, but learned that if I gave us all some time to develop relationships on our own terms, that the love would grow eventually," she said. "You have to take things slowly. Just because you love someone doesn't mean that you're going to automatically love their children. All relationships take time to grow and develop. Be willing to give everyone the time and space that they need. It will come."
2. Come up with a set of house rules you both can agree on.
The two of you likely come with separate ideas on what's acceptable and what's you-are-so-grounded unacceptable. It's necessary to put up a unified front and create a common set of house rules, our reader Nicole said. "If we had to offer any advice to other families it would be have a common set of ground rules and agree on them first. Show fairness across the board and keep things on as scheduled and predictable a basis as possible," she said. "The kids don’t deserve anything less."
3. Date night is a must in any relationship, but especially for parents with two sets of kids.
There are no ifs, ands, or buts about this one: insist on getting your spouse out of the house once in a while so you can enjoy some time as a couple. "It's a must!" said blended family mom Christine. "There is always a way. If you are financially strained or just short on time, take a walk, take a drive and just sit and talk. We have found that getting away, whether it is for dinner or a weekend away is always great for us." She added: "When things are rocky, especially if it involves the kids, take a step back and remember the reason you are all 'blended' together: it's the husband and wife that are the base of the family and the reason that everyone is there together."
4. You've got a second chance to model love for your kids, so do it.
After years in high-conflict marriages, April and her husband, Justin, told us they saw their new marriage as an opportunity to show their kids what love should look like. "We both make an effort to not have anything like that in this relationship," April said. "We went to counseling before we were married so that we could work on past issues before venturing into a new marriage with all the baggage of our past relationship. While we definitely have our share of disagreements and fights, we make sure that the kids not only see us fighting, but making up as well. They know without a doubt that we love each other."
5. Don't shy away from problems -- your kids will grow from the hiccups you face as a family.
Meg, a mom of five featured in our series, said she looks at the conflicts her family faces together as opportunities for the kids to become more open-minded in their thinking. "I really don't mind problems," she said. "I know that problems are just opportunities to learn and grow. I see how our family has adapted and adopted that attitude as well. I am proud that we can live in different houses, but the bond we hold is just as strong, and I see that the kids have become more flexible in their thinking and more accepting of different solutions. I tell them that having more adults in their lives who love them is definitely a good thing."
6. Let go of any resentment you have for your ex. It will do you and your kids a world of good.
Our reader, Andrea, is close friends with her ex and best friends with his new wife. The first step to getting to that place in their relationship? Letting go of the past. "There are always a million reasons you might have issues with your ex -- they cheated on you, they moved on first, they stopped loving you -- but whatever it is, let go of it," she told us. "Do both of you a favor and try to find ways to reconnect on a different level that allows you to build a new relationship. It's healthier for all involved, and ultimately much better for your child. And that's all that should matter."
7. Parenting in a blended family is hard work, and you'll have to learn as you go.
"It's parenting, amplified," blended family mom Jesika told us about the experience of raising her family. "The reality is, no matter how prepared you are, no matter how many books you read or how many experts you consult, there is no magic to this. It's hard work," she added. "It's dedication. It's being the one true home that is safe, sound, and trustworthy. Divorce is so horrible, destabilizing, and scary. And we've learned that the only thing we can do in response is make our home safe, secure and loving."
If you'd like your own family to be featured on a Blended Family Friday, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We're looking forward to hearing your story!