A term "Blended family"
A blended family is a family unit composed of a couple and the children that they have from previous marriages. A blended family is also referred to as "stepfamilies." In the past "Step-family" was used to show the bond that was created when a man/woman married a widow/widower who had children of her own as a result of her previous marriage. Today the word "step-parent" does not always imply the relationship forged between a child and a new parent after his biological parent has passed away. Nowadays, it is possible to have a stepfamily even when both parents are alive as well, (even though not married to each other). A step-family is as a result of marriage and cannot be defined without a legally binding marriage contract.
This has posed a problem to etymological, historical and scholars because they are forced to take into account that contemporary time; families are blended and forged together even if not married. Even without a marriage ceremony and a legally linking them together, many adults are choosing to blend their families and live together into a single family unit.
Challenges in building blended family
Blending a family unit is very difficult. Without bringing about the issue of the biology of the parents and children, the relationship of the children and parent are complicated. The fact is that many children and step parents have a hard time learning to live together as a child and parent. Without recognizing the child-parent relationship as complete, it becomes very hard to make that leap and comfortably acknowledge a friendly and respectful relationship. The same can also be said to step-siblings and siblings forged in blended families. These kind relationships may take a very long time to develop and that the hard part when it comes to blended families (Fogarty, Ferrer, and McCre).
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A good relationship does not happen instantly. It takes effort, commitment, time, and lots of patience. As a family unit with children from the previous relationships, you face special challenges. As a family unit, you need to build a committed and solid relationship with each other, while including each other's children in the family. Common sense is one of the best friends in a relationship. Treat each other with patience, kindness, and respect, as you would like to be treated. Avoid from speaking ill of any family unit member at all cost. The fact is that when two separate families come together it is bound to be disagreement. However, discussion about them and understanding the other member's feelings is critical and necessary. Building a history together will take time and will someday grow from affection to familial love.
How to create a happy step-family
Avoiding having the same expectation for your blended family, as you would want for your nuclear (or your previous) family relationship will go a long way in creating a unified unit. Having realistic expectations, and goals, make a great difference for a blended family unit. Before you consider going ahead to remarry you should make sure that all the step-family members know each other well. One of the rules of blended families is that parents should not disagree with each other in front of the children (Fogarty, Ferrer, and McCre). Forming this kind of relationship is a challenging task.
According to the family therapist forming a healthy step-family can take anywhere from four to seven years of adjustment and trying to merge two families too quickly may result to disappointment as some family members may resist such kind of relationships. Forming a healthy blended family there should be a great couple relationship, and a great quality time together coupled with great communication among the couples. This is crucial because the relationships between the couples and their biological children started way before their relationship.
It is a fact that no two relationships are alike so every relationship requires work. Part of that work involves pain, dealing with loss, and bitterness from the previous relationship so as not to weaken your relationship. In fact, loss, denial, and guilt from a previous relationship can come out in ways that neither partner understands or expects. It is very appealing to accord support for your own child and point an accusing finger at the step-child, and it is also equally appealing to blame your spouse of unequal discipline to your child. Seeing a united unit and a stable relationship becomes very crucial for the children who are thrown together with near outsider and suddenly put up with that they have to compete for their parent's concentration. It becomes unhealthy to ignore the differences and problems that need to be resolved.
Step-family and its members
Empathy towards children in step-families
In addition, as you both work toward a strong blended family, it should be understood that the relationship would be different from the setup family with two biological parents. In addition, the step-children should be made to understand that their step-parent cannot acts like their biological parents. What is more important here is mutual understanding between the step-parent and the step-children. It is also advisable for the step-parents just to act more like a mentor or a friend. The children also may need some quality time with their biological parents; the step-parent should understand this to foster a strong and unified blended family. It should also be kept in mind that children cannot express their inner feelings appropriately. This is because children are born not knowing how to express their feelings and need to be taught on these skills. Furthermore, the children find it very hard to become accustomed to a new environment brought about by a blended family e.g. a new house, step-siblings, or a new school.
Teenagers also tend to experience the transition to blended family negatively. They often feel that they are left out in decision making and excluded from their relationship with their biological parents. It should also be noted that teens that move from single patents to blended families are at a high risk of bad behaviors such as alcohol use. Any changes to be made within such kind of relationships should be made slowly and consistently for the children to feel a sense of stability. It becomes crucial to take time, listen, and talk to each other.
Every member of the family should be listened to and their opinion valued and considered during decision-making process. To avoid discontent in the family every member of the blended family should also be allowed to express their feelings. The step-parents should give the kids an opportunity to express themselves without even taking into account their ages and even when their feelings are so difficult for the step-parent to hear. The role of the step-parents is not essentially to be family unit disciplinarians. As a step-parent, it would be very wrong to make a decision about your step-child behavior. However, this may depend on the circumstances involved. It would be a good idea for the step-parent to act as a supporter or a mentor than trying to parent or discipline the step-child. If there are issues or disagreement between step-parents, it should be discussed privately or away from the children. The step-parents should support each other and show concern to each other without being judgmental.
Children need balanced love and discipline. The step-parents should give the much-needed affection to their step-children, as they would do their own kids. As a step-parent, you should for all time be aware to the fact that the child is trying to adjust to a new environment and a new lifestyle. Always have a positive attitude and focus only on the positive qualities of the kid. You should also show some patient with the child that because with time you might be more involved with the child. Your involvement with the child should not be seen as if you are forcing yourself to them. Treat the child as they may want to be treated. Bearing in mind that parent your child is exhausting and being a step-parent is more challenging. Sometimes it becomes so frustrating when you realize the relationship with your step-child is not as cordial would like. With restraint, consistency, patience and time things will certainly improve.
In a blended family, both the step-parents should create a policy, which should be adhered to by the family. This kind of policy might contain issues like neither step-parent should act to reprimand or discipline the child without reaching an enthusiastic agreement about it. As step-parent, you might not agree on many of the issues, but as you go practicing and applying the policy you will establish some guidelines in child-rearing issues, and some agreement will start to form. With such agreement, you will be able to discipline your kids in a way you will take into account each other's feelings thus saving your blended family and marriage (Harley).
Biological parent's role
The biological parents also have a critical role to play in developing a positive relationship in a blended family. As a biological parent, you are also responsible in disciplining your child even if you may share this responsibility with your partner/spouse. You should also make sure that you train your child and make them understand the importance of treating your new partner with respect. Sometimes children feel nervous, uneasy, or fearful toward a new step-parent. As you work to establish a new household, make sure you orient your partner on the household rules, family's past discipline, and responsibilities. This will go a long way to prepare your partner being supportive as you try to lay rules and policies for the blended family. The biological parents should be able to recognize they have a bond with the child, which they do not share with their partners. This can leave the partner feeling isolated, and this can be detrimental to the working condition of the blended family. Always involve your partner in your daily routines as much as possible so that they can have a feeling that they are part of the blended family. They should be included in creating structures for the family, establishing clear consequences and rules, and allowing children to give input about the rules.