Three things to avoid when forming a blended family

Seventy-five percent of women and 85 percent of men remarry after divorce. Half of these are remarried within three years, making step-families a common occurrence in the United States.

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  • Seventy-five percent of women and 85 percent of men remarry after divorce. Half of these are remarried within three years, making step-families a common occurrence in the United States.

  • These blended families, though they come with their own special challenges, can provide a supportive and loving environment in which children and adults learn to work together and appreciate differences.

  • If you are preparing to transition to the role of step-parent, you probably have valid concerns about this change in your life.

  • Combining two different families can be a long and sometimes difficult process. One reason it is so difficult is because, often, a step-parent tries to "parent" too soon or has unrealistic expectations. Don't strive for a totally happy family immediately. These complex emotional adjustments take three to five years and involve many family discussions about how to accommodate each other.

  • After the first five years, step-families are more likely to last than first marriages. When children witness happy, loving parents they are likely to grow and thrive in the step-family environment. However, there are certain mistakes both children and parents make that can inhibit happiness and cause extra contention.

  • The following are some things to avoid when combining your family with the family of your new spouse.

  • 1. Don't interfere with the child's relationship with the non-custodial parent

  • The influence of the “real” mother or father can seem threatening when you are trying to build a relationship with your step-child. However, in most cases the child benefits from this contact. Attempting to replace the biological parent is unrealistic and can cause resentment or confusion on the part of the child.

  • Encourage contact with the biological parent. At the same time, make yourself available as an adult friend who will listen and act as a sounding board. Eventually, you will build your own relationship as the child learns to see you as a trusted friend.

  • 2. Don’t expect to be instantly loved

  • Neither step-parents nor step-children should expect that they will be accepted right away. These relationships take time. Falling in love with a man or a woman does not guarantee that you will be enthralled by their children or that their children will adore you.

  • Be patient and respect the fact that everyone has their own time table for forming relationships. Try not to be discouraged if one or more of your step-children does not warm up to you right away. The initial goal must be for step-kin to get to know one another. As family members develop communication skills and an interest in each other, the stage will be set for the development of affection.

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  • 3. Don’t have rigid expectations about your new family

  • Preconceived ideas can interfere with an appreciation for the individuality that step-kin bring to the family. Try to recognize that your way of doing things isn’t necessarily the “right” way.

  • Remarriage is a blending of family traditions, resources, and values. Just as newly married couples bring ideas in from their families of origin, step-parents and step-children have personal histories that must be acknowledged and dealt with. Step-families should try to incorporate familiar routines and realize that over time they will develop their own special traditions and rituals.

  • Forming a successful blended family requires realistic expectations, patience and time. Knowing what to expect and what to avoid will help you reach your ultimate goal; a happy and loving blended family.

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A. Lynn Scoresby, founder and president of My Family Track , First Answers , and Achievement Synchrony , and has been a marriage and family psychologist for more than 35 years. He has published more than 20 books and training programs.


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