In the USA, divorce rates are quite high, and there are many blended families or ‘stepfamilies’ across the country. A blended family simply means one of the children is not biologically related to their parent’s spouse. Stepparents can play a big role in providing support for their stepchildren, particularly if they have a strong bond by knowing their partner’s child since they were a very young age. We have come up with 5 Tips for modern blended families.
Communication is key when blending families. Stepparents have to be in the loop and not excluded from dealing with their lives simply because they are not the children’s biological parent.
Blended families fortunately these days are able to communicate frequently with one another using modern digital communication tools such as Smartphones, tablets, laptops, and so on. Even if your kids don’t get on with their stepparent, they should definitely have their stepparent’s telephone number saved in their cell phone in case of an emergency.
Communication is particularly important when you have a co-parenting living schedule arrangement with their biological parent who is now living elsewhere. For example, if your kids usually come to your house Friday-Sunday, but you cannot have them this Friday for whatever reason, you have to communicate this with them so they know where they will be staying. Moving between two houses can be confusing at first for children, but hopefully they can adapt and get used to the living arrangements.
Work as a Team
Keeping a united front is key to strong parenting in blended families, as children can sometimes try to play one off against the other. To counter this, you should both try and stay on the same page when it comes to rules on things such as bed times, how long they are allowed to stay out with friends until at night, tidying their bedroom space, doing homework, chores, and so on. Being a stepparent to someone else’s biological child isn’t easy and it is something that you have to work at.
Parenting always works better when you stay together and support one another. Of course, you and your child’s stepparent will not agree with each other on every tiny little decision when it comes to parenting. However, in general, it’s much better for blended families when you stick together and back each other up consistently when dealing with the children.
However, if your children are older or even adults, they will be much more independent and may not still live at home with you. This means you won’t be required to dictate what they do like blended families parenting young children have to. Nevertheless, it’s still a good idea to work as a team when dealing with your grown up children as even young adults can be immature and lack essential life experience.
Show Respect to the Children
You want your children to treat you and your partner with respect. Therefore, you should also make sure you also treat them with respect. Ways you and your partner can treat your children with respect include:
- Speaking with them politely
- Avoid shouting at them
- Stepparents should try and treat stepchildren as if they were their own biological children
- Being fair and not having favourite children who you decide to treat differently and always favour
- Providing them with positive support for constructive things that they do
- Encouraging them in being ambitious and achieving any of their goals in education and career wise
- Being firm and united as parents in a blended family when it’s necessary and letting your children know the rules, the boundaries, and the consequences for breaking the rules. But also, you should be compassionate and do your best to understand their feelings.
As with any other family arrangement, there can be conflict in modern blended families. How you and your partner address and deal with conflict with your children is very important in ensuring the happiness of your blended family setup. You have to try and make sure that your biological child(ren) listens and respects their stepparent. Inevitably, at some point a stepparent in a blended family will have to implement rules, and your child will have to respect their authority, especially if they are younger and a minor.
Here are some ways couples in blended families can manage conflict with children:
- Make sure the rules and boundaries are clear and easy for your child(ren) to understand. If your child arrives home at 1am from a party and they were only allowed to stay out until 10pm at the latest, you and your partner should discipline them for knowingly breaking the rules you set.
- Being understanding and not being overly harsh in how you punish your child.
- Keeping lines of communication open and letting your children know they can contact you whenever they need to. Having good communication with your children will ensure you are one of the first to be alerted if there is ever an emergency.
- Being consistent in your parenting so your children know where you both stand on important issues such as schooling.
You should also try and avoid conflict with your ex over how you treat your children. You can avoid conflict with you ex by:
- Communicating properly with them, whether it be in-person, over a phone call, a Facetime, a Zoom video call, SMS messages, WhatsApps, Facebook etc. Refusing to communicate with your ex is not sensible and will only have a negative impact on your kids.
- Co-operating and agreeing together over the important things such as your child(ren)’s medical care and schooling.
- Having shared expenses that you both contribute to.
Your Kids’ Emotional Wellbeing is Important
Understandably, your kids may carry some trauma from your divorce, particularly if it was not an easy one and you were often arguing in front of them. It’s very important for parents in blended families to look after your children’s emotional wellbeing and make sure that they are alright in themselves.
Ways you can deal with their emotional wellbeing include:
- Encouraging them to visit a family therapist or psychologist
- Making sure they stay physically active and doing the things they enjoy.
- Speaking with them openly about their feelings
The most important principle behind parenting in a modern blended family setup is making sure you do your best to prioritize your kids and their needs, and hopefully they will respect your partner.