With divorce a common occurrence, you would think that smoothly “blending” a family would be fairly simple. But as the countless men and women facing step-parenthood can tell you, that’s just not the case. Some children resist the change to a new family dynamic, while parents become frustrated, feel impatient, and just wish this new family would function the same way as their old family. But changing the family structure is complicated, and not simply because there are new people in the mix.
While you and your partner may be excited to have this new arrangement, it is normal for the children to be uncertain and even quite upset. The blending of the families is a concrete sign that their parents will not be reconciling (a common fantasy), and it may be frightening to feel that they are “losing” their other parent, even if that relationship was not a close one. They may or may not enjoy the company of their new step-siblings, or may feel they need to compete for attention in a way they never had to before. They may even not like your new spouse very much, due to personality conflicts or simple childhood resentment.
Move Slowly. Blended families have a higher success rate if the new couple waits at least two years after the split of the former marriage before they marry. Children need time to process and find their footing after their parents divorce.
Keep It Simple. While it is tempting to treat the children to fun outings every time you are together, it creates a false sense of excitement and does not allow the working out of general life negotiations, which is essential for any working family. Have sit-down dinners at home, go to soccer games, do homework around the table, before the family is formally blended. Let the children see how things will feel when this is “normal life.”