Relationships are dynamic, ever changing, and rarely if ever, static. That’s good! As people we are simply complex. What we say we will do and what we actually do, does not always end up being the same thing. Good intentions don’t always mean good follow through. What we think will work, doesn’t always play out that way. How we interact with others can change with different situations, thus demanding flexibility in our thinking.
People, as an individual or in the context of a family, create a groove, their own and unique way of doing things, an ebb and flow to their life that can feel seamless, despite the ups and downs of life. People have expectations of others, both said and unsaid, a history – all the good and bad, and often many family traditions that want to be preserved in the midst of change.
When two families with children, often with varying ages and developmental needs, decide to merge and begin to form a new, blended family, taking a cue from Facebook, “its complicated” takes on a whole new meaning.
Although there are no hard and fast rules, there are a few things that families can do to help their new families “blend” more successfully…
1.) Remain open and flexible in your thinking as this will help create closeness and build healthy relationships. Just because something worked in the past, doesn’t mean it will work the same way in the present. Sometimes it takes a few “fits and starts” before it feels “right.”
2.) Remember that building new relationships takes time. Lots of time. Family members, especially children, are getting to know you just as much as you are getting to know them. Do not rush into creating a relationship; let it have a natural affinity on its own that can be developed. Developing a new relationship by taking a step back will make it feel more organic, less forced.
3.) Be kind and loving to yourself. Sometimes this is challenging because we start to feel bad if things are not going in the direction we assumed we would.
4.) Create new traditions. Consider everyone’s input in order to make each person feel included. Give everyone time to adjust to these new traditions. Including you! Change takes time…
5.) Nurture the relationship with your spouse or partner. Although everyone to adjust is important, remember to remain focused on nurturing your relationship. Having a strong foundation in your relationship will help you work through the challenges that can often arise.
.6). It takes time for families to bond and figure out how the new family will work and function together. The roles will change and possibly change again, which will create another dynamic. Know this is possible.
7.) Connecting with one another doesn’t have to be a daunting task, over the top, or something to the “nth” degree. Go for a walk, read a book together, or talk to them while dropping them off to be with a friend. These are the kinds of things that provide time to nurture the relationship without overkill.
8.) Look at the blended family as a family within a bigger family context and that you and your kids need your own time together. Work hard to honor this. This is will help with the transition. Respecting and cherishing the original family may help everyone become more accepting of the new family.
9.) Don’t fall for some of the myths: That it’s easy and that kids “will adjust.” You don’t have to put the time in to it. If it doesn’t blend well, there is no hope. Love occurs naturally between stepchild/parent. Children of divorce are damaged forever. Kids will be happy about the remarriage. You will not make the same blunders as before. Blended families function just like traditional families. False, false, and false.
10. What might appear unclear and feel really daunting at times, can be managed and dealt with more effectively when the new couple actively works together with a mutual commitment to making their new family work – whatever that new family might look like.
Despite or in spite of the challenges that blended families encounter, there is often incredible love, happiness, and hope.
Hope for the present. Hope for the new family. Hope for a different future.
Every family has their own personal journey..