Children & Family
Entering a new relationship and getting married again does not just impact you as a couple. Chances are your lives are more complex and there are many more people and circumstances that will need sensitive consideration.
This book helps to identify some of the challenges you may face with blended families and some practical insights to help you navigate through.
Family and Friends
Getting to know your new in-laws is an opportunity to build a whole new set of warm, loving relationships but it is not always easy and you will probably know whether they are accepting of you already. Remember, your past is your past and you have nothing to apologise to them for.
In becoming a stepparent, don’t try to compete with your loved one’s ex, particularly when it comes to parenting. If the ex betrayed your partner, the family may show insecurity. Focus on doing positive things rather than talking about what you plan to do, time will be the great revealer.
It is natural for stepchildren to compare a stepmother or a stepfather to their biological parent. Reassure them you are not a replacement, that you love their parent very much, and would like to be given the chance to love them as well.
Your loved one’s extended family and friends love them deeply. It is natural for them to want to verify if you are ‘good enough’. Believe in yourself and have confidence in your marriage.
Remember that at heart, people are compassionate souls. Once the major hurdles have been overcome, believe that these are people who want to love and support you.
Many marriages would be better if the husband and the wife clearly
that they are on the same side.
The Child’s Eye View
Every stepparent’s dream is the immediate and effortless blending of two very different families. But just like love itself, a close and loving blended families takes care, dedication, and time. In fact, I read recently that it takes approximately seven years for a stepparent to be fully accepted, no matter how dedicated they are, and how much they get on with their stepchildren!
It is natural for children to be unenthusiastic, so your responsibility is to present WIIFMs (What’s In It For Me?) that will help them see their new reality in a positive light. It might be improved finances, an exciting new place to live and older siblings to learn from/younger ones to teach.
But don’t stretch it too far, as otherwise it will appear insincere and they will not trust you. Let them know how important it is for you to love and be loved by another adult.
See things through the children’s eyes. While the details will vary, they all have the need for security and the desire to love and feel loved.
You didn’t ask me if I wanted a new mother. You didn’t even ask me if I liked her!
Anna Harrison (Jena Malone) sets the record straight in the movie ‘Stepmom’ (1998)
Before you say I do, ask your children open-ended questions so they can express their views. Address, but don’t indulge, their concerns. Spend time together in a typical daily situation to get used to one another.
Children often harbour the futile hope that their parents will reunite, even when there’s a stepfather or stepmother. This requires careful and sensitive honesty.
Some do’s: Be aware of what your child has lost. Learn about your stepchildren, show you care, laugh and joke, and value their opinion. And remember to side with your spouse in a parent/child argument.
Some don’ts: Don’t make children feel they have to take sides. Don’t be in a rush to be involved in your step-children’s lives. Don’t attempt to replace or challenge the biological parent. Don’t try to be cool with their friends. Don’t force stepchildren onto each other. Don’t despair!
Love is a two-sided affair; it requires both support and challenge, warmth and firmness, and if you have the strength and wisdom to apply both in proper measure, your success is assured.