As part of our Blended Family Friday series, each week we spotlight 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! Want to share your own story? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HuffPost Divorce readers Kristen and Dave have a house full of preteens and teens. How does the couple make it work with six kids, who range in age from 11 to 20? "Compromise. A lot of compromise," Kristen explains. "An Outlook calendars helps, too!"
Below, Kristen tells us more about her family.
Hi there! Want to introduce us to your family?
Of course! I’m Kristen and I'm married to Dave. We are a blended family of eight. I have four sons: Evan, 11; Hayden, 14; Jacob, 16; and Jordan, 20. My husband has an 11-year-old daughter named Dixon and a 14-year-old son named Tripp. We will be celebrating our one year anniversary on July 25th. Do we have fun together? The answer is yes, on most days, we definitely do!
(Photo courtesy of Kristen Thompson)
What are some of the biggest challenges of blended family life?
With six very active kids, we have crazy schedules. (What parent doesn’t?) Our biggest challenge is coordinating our kids' sports and school activities. Both of us do the best we can to support all of the kids, but we can’t physically be everywhere at once so something has to give. We live by our Outlook calendars to let us know who has what when.
What makes you proudest of your family?
Our unity. For instance, we have family dinner together every Sunday (no excuses), we call family meetings for big discussion items, we have family game nights and we take family trips whenever time allows. We work hard to instill into our kids the importance of family and having each others' backs. Blood may mean you are related, but “family” is who you love, respect and feel at home with.
How do you deal with stress in your household?
My husband and I go to dinner once a week when our kids are with their other parents. Sometimes it’s the only day of the week that we actually get to have a conversation that doesn’t revolve around kid logistics. It’s our time to recharge our batteries and reconnect.
What advice do you have for other blended families trying to keep the peace in their home?
You and your spouse need to be on the same page as parents. My husband and I have an agreement that I discipline my children and he disciplines his. If one of us isn’t home, we diffuse the situation, but the bio-parent handles the discipline later. We have similar expectations as to how our children should behave and also their work ethic with school.
What drives a wedge between couples a lot of times is not having conversations early on about what your expectations are as parents. Kids get resentful when another kid in the home is allowed to do something they are not. Resentment can also set in once a stepparent throws down the gavel with consequences for misbehavior. There’s a fine line there. That's why we made decisions early on so we'd know how to handle those situations. The truth is, being in a blended family is a constant work in progress for everyone involved. Compromises have to be made, conflicts will crop up, but eventually, respect will begin to build in your home. After a while, oftentimes before you even realize it, a family bond has formed.