Blended families are more common than ever. According to the Census Bureau, in 2015 more than 16% of the children in the United States live in blended families. In this instance, a blended family is defined as a household with a stepparent and step or half-siblings.
How to Help Your Kids Adjust o a Blended Family
Becoming a blended family can be stressful for everyone involved, but it can be especially difficult for the children. If you’re in the process of creating a blended family, here are some tips and tricks to help your kids adjust to their new normal.
1. Hone Your Patience
This is going to be a trying time for everyone, regardless of their age or their connection to the family. Tempers will run high and you may find that even the most well-behaved children start acting out as they learn to process their new environment.
Now isn’t the moment to start trying to impose strict discipline or lash out at your children. Now is the time to hone your patience. This is stressful for everyone and unlike you — the adult in the situation — your children don’t have any sort of coping mechanisms to help them deal with that stress. Be the rock, the foundation, the patient one in this situation. Things will start to calm down as everyone adapts to their new situation, but in the meantime, be patient.
2. Build All the Bridges
If there is some negativity between you and extended members of your blended family — such as the biological parents of stepchildren — it can be tempting to burn all the bridges and cut off all contact completely. Unless this is something that’s agreed upon by both parties, put down the matches. Instead, you should be building bridges and encouraging your step-children to foster and maintain a relationship with their biological parents and any siblings that aren’t part of your blended family.
On the same token, even if there is bad blood between the two sides of the family, keep your mouth shut. Don’t talk badly or spread negativity about extended family members. That will only contribute to the negativity of the situation and make it more difficult for your children to adapt to their new blended family.
3. Have Family Fun Days
If you leave your new blended family to their own devices, you may find new step-siblings segregating themselves, keeping to their own devices because they don’t feel comfortable. Instead of singling out either side of the equation, why not bring everyone together with some fun family activities? Make sure everyone is included, and choose something that will ensure that everyone has fun.
If you have a trampoline, consider playing some trampoline-based games that everyone can participate in. Games that you probably played as a child, like Horse and Hot Potato, all translate beautifully to time spent on a trampoline.
4. Keep Them Informed
Don’t leave your kids out of the loop, no matter how young they are. You will need to adjust your explanations to make them more age-appropriate, but your kids should all be aware that something is changing and that you’ll be bringing in new people to join your little family. Take things slowly but make sure you’re keeping them informed at every stage of the process.
This is a good opportunity to get them excited about the prospect of having a new sibling or a new parental figure coming into their life. If you jump into these big changes without keeping your kids in the loop, you’re going to have a hard time helping them adapt.
5. Communication is Key
Communication is the most important tool in your arsenal when it comes to helping your children adjust to your new blended family. Talk to them, talk to your partner, talk to your former partner — keep open lines of communication with everyone involved. You may find that your child is confiding in your ex-partner rather than you and they’re having problems with the transition into a blended family.
Keep those doors open and let everyone involved know that you are always available for a good conversation, especially where your children and your family are concerned. Open and honest communication makes families — blended or traditional — work.
Make Them Feel As Normal As Possible
Blended families are becoming more common every year. While the designation might be important for things like the census, once you settle down around the dinner table, you’re all a family. Keep that in mind through this entire process. Don’t focus on the blended aspect. Instead, focus on family. Make your kids feel as normal as possible as they’re adapting to this new chapter in their life.
It won’t always be easy. Kids are resilient but it can take them a long time to adapt to new things. Be patient with them and shower them with love, because when you get right down to the bare bones of family, love is what it’s all about.