Once you say “I do,” you may picture your spouse’s children immediately accepting you as their new parent. You may even imagine each of them giving you a tight hug with tears in their eyes as they lovingly call you “Mom” or “Dad” for the very first time as a way to say “I love you.” In a perfect world, that is exactly how it may play out – a smooth and quick transition where no one flinches and the mere thought of “You are not my Mom/Dad” never comes up in their precious little minds.
However, since you apparently want to deal with reality, it is vital to know that is not how it plays out in real life. What is the key to having a successful blended family? Why is important not to force the situation?
There Are No Overnight Transitions
You may have transitioned from engaged lovers to married spouses within a single day. However, the timeline for a successful transition into a blended family is nowhere near as simple or “time-efficient.” According to Parents magazine, “it typically takes between two and five years for a stepfamily to establish itself.” Pay close attention to the keyword “typically” in that sentence. Some transitions may happen sooner while others may take much longer.
The key is to understand that every family is different. Instead of comparing your family’s timeline to your unrealistic expectations or even the examples set by other blended families, shift your focus to the specific circumstances surrounding your family.
Do Not Force Quality Time
In the movies, a simple family road trip or quality family bonding experience usually brings the stepfamily together within a single film. As you strive to separate fact from fantasy, please remember that one great trip does not make a successfully blended family. There is no need to plan an “epic trip” or schedule enormous blocks of time within the first few months of your marriage to work on connecting with one another.
Work with the realistic opportunities for quality time that will naturally emerge with time and take full advantage of them. This will also help you to reinforce the idea that you are not trying to replace your stepchildren’s parents – you simply want to be a part of their family as well.
Never Interfere with Parent-Child Talks
There will be quite a few instances where the children will want to talk to their parent without you being around. Do not be offended by this or feel the need to force your way into the “inner circle.” Doing so will only make it easier for the kids to distance themselves from you instead of finding their way to you. As you and your spouse develop your own pattern of open communication, rest assured that he or she will fill you in whenever the need to do so presents itself. If you are working toward creating a safe and smooth transition into a blended family, though, you need to make sure that you keep your distance and remove yourself from the situation whenever those incidents arise.
Embrace All Children Equally – Even New Arrivals
Perhaps the most burdensome part of a blended family transition is when a new child is introduced into the equation. The existing kids may be able to distinguish themselves as their father’s children or their mother’s kids. However, when a biological blending of the family takes place and adds a new seat to the dinner table set-up, this may raise cause for alarm, anxiety and confusion. As a blended family, you need to avoid the unhealthy mentality of “your kids vs my kids.” Instead, strive to create a loving environment where all kids are treated fairly and loved equally. Doing so will create a cohesive environment in which your new child will grow without feeling the need to choose sides and add to the overall divisiveness that may exist within the home.