If you’ve been divorced, you are probably beginning to experience the struggles of welcoming another person into your life. Whether you both have kids, you have kids but your new partner doesn’t, or vice versa, it can be hard at times to make a blended family work. The harsh truth about a blended family is this: someone usually ends up getting ignored or feeling left out of the bigger picture. Children feel like they have to compete for your attention. They feel threatened by a new addition to the family. But making a blended family succeed with kids doesn’t have to be impossible. In fact, it isn’t. By making special time for your children, giving them time to accept their new situation, and doing everything you can to set your family up for success, you can find yourself part of a functioning blended family.
Establish Regular “Date” Nights
The second you as a parent welcome another person into your life, your attentions are going to be focused on your partner more than on your children. Put yourself in your children’s shoes for a moment. They probably feel replaced. They may feel that either someone is threatening their territory or even taking over you as their parent.
A common problem I always hear is that a mom never spent time with her son, because she was always out with her boyfriend. While it’s okay to spend time with your new partner, it’s important to never make your children feel forgotten. Have a date night with your child––just them and you. Do whatever they want to do, go where they want to eat, and give them your undivided attention. That means no phone time and listening to everything they have to say. And make that “date” time consistent. It’s important for your child to know that no matter how busy you get, you will always make time for them and never cancel your plans with them.
Let Your Children Express Themselves
Often our children are not happy with us for moving on to a new partner. If they ever begin to express that anger to you, let them. It’s important to acknowledge those feelings and allow them to feel that their opinion matters. And it’s okay if they are angry. Your job is just to listen to them, not try to fix their anger. The more understanding you are with them and willing to listen, the more your child will realize you do care about them and aren’t trying to hurt them or intentionally leave them out.
Give Your Children Time
If any or all of your children have a hard time accepting your new partner into their life, it’s okay. This is normal. Don’t expect them to adjust overnight. Give them time to acclimate to the new family atmosphere and allow them some space without your new partner around all the time. You can’t force everything to happen right away. With patience and the right attitude, you’ll eventually see your children accept their new family. A successful blended family doesn’t have to mean that your children accept your partner or even your partner’s children as their own parent or siblings; it just means that everyone is willing to try to get along with each other and not fight the new family structure. If you let that acceptance happen in its own time, your family will be the stronger for it.
Set Your Family Up to Win
Once you begin spending time together as a blended family, do everything you can to make sure those times are a success. When you go out together on a day trip, keep your children from getting bored by bringing stuff for them to do. Don’t forget to bring food or snacks, so they don’t get cranky. Your goal is to make sure everyone is having fun while you are all together.
As I mentioned earlier, growing into a cohesive blended family doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, patience, love, and awareness. For children who resist, give them time. As long as you remain all-inclusive, talk positively, and listen to them, they’ll come around eventually. No matter how hopeless it may seem now, I promise you it does get better.