As a single mom dating a man with kids, I have to say, the Brady Bunch gave me a totally unrealistic idea of how blended families should function. The reality of bringing two families together into one is much, much different than Carol and Mike made it out to be! Then again, real life is never as rosy as a sitcom. Blended families can work- very well in fact- it just takes work to make it work!
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Blended Families: How to Make it Work
- Don’t Force It. The most important step in creating harmony in blended families: don’t try too hard. It’s tempting to throw the kids together and try to get them to make instant friends, especially if they’re close in age. The problem is, they may be into completely different things and feel like they have nothing in common. Give them time to discover common interests and become friends on their own.
- Give everyone space (literally). While giving each child their own room is ideal, if you’ve just combined two larger families into one home, it may be impossible. If they have to share rooms, try to set them up so each child has his or her own space. You can accomplish this with curtains or room dividers. Room too small for that? Give each child a designated “personal space” in the home, along with a sign that lets others know “this is MY personal time.”
- Blend traditions, don’t replace them. If you and your son always had blueberry crepes on Sunday mornings but your new hubby and his daughter preferred omelets, make both. If you always decorate your Christmas tree on Black Friday but new hubby does it on Christmas Eve, put up two trees, at least until everyone is used to each other. Once your blended families have settled together, then you can start coming up with new traditions. Just don’t try to replace the ones that are dearest to your kids.
- Don’t take sides. As a single mom of an only child, this is the hardest thing about having blended families for me. It’s instinct for me to take my son’s side and him to take his son’s in a fight between the two. This has caused major fights between us that last long after the kids make up. TRY to remain neutral, even when you “KNOW” your child is in the right. If you’re a parent of more than one child, you likely already have this down pat, just make sure you apply that same Switzerland neutrality to your significant other’s children. Unless someone is bleeding or hysterically crying, try not to get involved.
- Take a cue from Frozen and Let it go. This goes along with the tip about not taking sides. If you get into a fight with your significant other about something between the kids, you have to let it go once the kids do. My friend once told me something when our kids were arguing that I’ve lived by ever since: Kids get over the fight in five minutes yet parents create wars that span generations arguing about which child was in the right. If your kids are over it, let it go. There will be new battles to fight tomorrow.
While the tips above are all helpful, my absolute best tip for making blended families work is to take it slow. Obviously, you’re not going to move in together after meeting each other five minutes ago. When you have kids to consider, though, you have to go slower than you may have in your single years. Sal and I have been together for three years and we still don’t live in the same house. Finding harmony in blended families isn’t something that happens overnight (unless you’re super lucky), but it is possible. Like I said, it takes work to make it work.
Do you have any tips for making blended families work easier? Leave them in the comments!