Step-Families: Blending the Familiar with the New

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If you or your new partner have children, or if you both have children from previous marriages, your efforts toward blending two families can sometimes be difficult and challenging. Conflicts over discipline, responsibility, money and jealousy can and do surface. To minimize the tension, try to understand how the children might feel in this situation, and consider what you and your partner can do to make the transition easier.

Remember Children are Individuals
You might be seeing the children as part of the "package" that came with the relationship which you and your partner now share, but children are individuals. Spending time with each child alone, as well as in a group, and getting to know each child as an individual may bring respect and warmer feelings in return.

Be Aware of Loyalties
Your step-children may be very loyal to your partner and to your partner's former spouse as well. They might even believe that they are being disloyal by liking you. Try not to speak negatively about your partner or your partner's "ex," even if what you are saying is true. The children may hold it against you, and it will become a barrier to communication and to forming more positive relationships.

Establish New Surroundings
Moving into new surroundings might be a good way to blend both partners' children into a new family unit. Totally new surroundings, or perhaps painting, remodeling or redecorating the old, might start everyone off on more equal footing, and that may help to establish the blended family with its own identity.

Settle Differences Privately
If you and your partner have disagreements over how the children should behave, talk them out privately. If the situation seems unresolvable, the two of your might consider talking with a neutral third party such as a family counselor. Many emotional issues can be resolved in the discussion of practical matters, and clear communication can head off problems.

Don’t Expect too Much too Soon
Try to be realistic in your expectations of the situation. Seek support from your partner, and offer your support in return.Also understand that the transition to a new family can be difficult for everyone. Successfully blending two families can be a great balancing act, but it can also be a very rewarding experience as relationships grow and blossom.