Top 10 Tips to Transitioning to a Blended Family / Domestic Mergers
- Build new personal relationships slowly. When I graduated from law school a few decades ago, it was ‘common knowledge’ that a person leaving a significant relationship will be ‘healed in about 6 months’. The new guideline is two years. It’s a more realistic fencepost and if you’re not feeling like yourself by that time, consult your doctor.
- Holdback new introductions: From your child’s perspective, what does meeting one of your new adult friends every 5 or 12 months feel like? Security, predictability, and safety for your child should be the priorities.
- Keep your history in the past: The ups and downs of the previous spousal relationship should not be part of your new blended family. Exercising parenting time for your children whose primary residence is not with you will be at a designated location away from the new family home. The curiosity of a child in your new family about the other parent is best engaged at a private time. Intimate details of the past adult relationship should not be shared with a child.
- Be honest: Love is different between adults and between a parent and his or her own children. In private moments with your own child quell their worries, display your profound love, and make that special time together memorable. For the stepchild in your new family you’re as much a curiosity to them as they are to you. Sharing interests grows their security and confidence. Let the relationship happen at its own pace.
- Ensure the best interests of the children: Each parent has a legal and moral responsibility to ensure that decisions regarding his or her natural or adopted child are made in the child’s best interests. Ensure compliance with domestic contracts executed with your previous partner or spouse or take steps to have them varied if they are outdated.
- Agree to balanced parenting: Family house rules are applied with an even hand to your children and your stepchildren. Decide early on how age appropriate discipline and annual and special celebrations will be handled.
- Acknowledge adjustment is happening: The family structures are different, the kids are rebelling at the unsettling onslaught of change, and the pizza isn’t made the way we used to do it! Adjustments happen from a new school to giving up independence as a single child. Support networks, private counselling, or family counselling may each be of assistance to understanding everyone’s needs at this time of profound change.
- Insist on respectful interactions: While adjusting to each other may take time, there are still chores to be done and deadlines to be met. Maintain kindness and respect: they are the grease to keeping the family functioning. Modelling strong positive interpersonal relationships builds trust and keeps behaviours within expectations.
- Hold realistic expectations: Grieving, adjustment, learning about these new people. Restructuring families take time. Don’t expect all the new changes will settle in a month’s time.
- Participate as a family: Be it building an outdoor skating rink (yes, I’m Canadian) or a basement games room, doing a genuine family project together brings everyone closer.
To learn more about the Blended Families and Domestic Mergers please contact Lorisa Stein directly.