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Making Step Families Work

     When mom and dad remarry the blending of the children can be the hardest part. Suddenly, you feel cheated by all those episodes of the Brady Bunch where the kids seemed to get along so perfectly without jealousy and discord. (Except for Cindy of course). For many divorced moms and dads, the thought of remarrying is put on hold for the simple reason that they don’t want to take on more children or threaten the sanctity of their own children’s lives by forcing them to have stepsiblings. However, it really can work – especially if the parents are dedicated to becoming one family.

The first thing that all parents should know going in is that the kids are going to have jealousy. Commonly, what parents do in this situation is try to ‘win over’ the step children by treating them extra special or lavishing them with love. During this winning over phase, the biological children are left feeling out of the loop and deeply angered by the fact that their very own mother or father is ‘trading them in’ for some step sibling. Parents should act natural. Before you blend a family, it is important that the new couple sit down and agree on some ground rules and regulations for how the house is going to be run. Chances are that both of you have different parenting styles. Yet living under one roof with children from different families demands that all things remain equal. Sit down and make lists of rules that are important to you, routines that you feel work and how you think things should be run with the children. Then agree to disagree on some, compromise on other and come up with a comprehensive list of the new family rules. Next step is to share them with the children, which will certainly cause a slight sense of discontent at least initially.

Once the groundwork is done, it is important that the new mom and dad stand together without being divided by the biological children. And yes, the children will try to pull the cards that say, “You aren’t my real mom or dad!” This is completely natural. Chances are they were already pleased with their first mom and dad and don’t see the need to love or accept new ones. Remember in the beginning that you are the one that chose a new partner, not your children. However, at some point after you allow them to blow off steam and let their feelings be known, the new parental pair needs to stand together and demand respect. Ensure to the kids that you aren’t trying to replace their real mom or dad, but that you want to love them and help them grow up.

Obviously, it is difficult to imagine accepting other children as your own. While in theory, most people think that the love they have for their new spouse will outweigh any trouble, it can be hard to conjure up the same feelings. Realize that even as an adult, love has to develop between you and your step children. Give it time and try to learn and accept your step children for who and what they are, appreciating their differences from your own children.

When the sibling rivalry and fighting breaks out, it is time to break out the rulebook. Lots of step families stand divided by whose kid they think is at fault for the trouble in the home. Remember, you are one now and you have to act as if all these kids are blood related and apply the same rules no matter what. If you and your spouse disagree, take the argument out earshot of the children so that they do not start manipulating your relationship.

Step families do not always come together immediately. In most cases, the outcome is decided by how well the mom and dad work to keep things natural and routine for the kids. Another huge point of importance is that step mom and step dad should never downgrade the children’s birth parent. This will do nothing but cause deep resentment and serve as a huge wedge between establishing any kind of relationships. Yep, it might be hard at times to keep your mouth shut – but the bottom line is that you have to do what is right for your new step family, rather than act out of your own frustration.

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Posted on 2013-05-12, By: *

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