According to statistics New Zealand, one in every three marriages is a second or subsequent marriage. When a new partnership includes children from a person’s prior relationship, they become a stepfamily (also known as a blended family).
When a couple are in love, it’s natural for them to desire that their partner and children share a meaningful relationship too. Blending is therefore about having those who are in a step relationship form such a bond by learning to accept, respect and care for each other.
Along the path to happily ever after in a step family, there’s a number of obstacles couples must first overcome. These include navigating different parenting styles, helping the stepparent feel satisfied in their new role, dealing with ex-partners and reducing a parent’s feeling of being torn trying to keep their children and partner happy. During conflict these pressures can cause a step family to divide along biological lines. Rather than choosing to escape the conflict by breaking up, the challenge is for couples to explore their way through it.
All couples in a step family have a tremendous opportunity to experience lifelong satisfying and fulfilling relationships when they choose to remain committed to each other. Couples can create a loving and stable environment for their children while modelling the skills that make a relationship successful. Children are able to witness how their parent and stepparent work together and learn valuable life skills in the process.
If you find yourself in a stepfamily environment, or are planning to blend, the following keys will assist you towards making certain this time is forever.
View blending as a journey rather than an event
Those connected by blood ties will share a stronger bond in comparison to those in a step relationship (e.g. biological siblings compared to stepsiblings). This is perfectly normal so blending is about creating an environment in which step relationships can develop and family members needs be met.
The thing is, it takes time for each person to adjust to their new role within your family. Your family will move through a number of stages over several years. With patience, persistence and some proven strategies to assist, family members will form a way of relating to each other that helps each person feel accepted, supported and a sense of belonging.
Points to work on:
Couples who share their feelings without blaming and explore possible solutions that cater for a variety of needs, will mostly like work through the stages of blending at a faster pace.
Don’t set rules and systems in concrete but evaluate them to determine their effectiveness. If one approach doesn’t work, it’s not the end of the world (or the stepfamily), together explore another way forward.
Develop effective conflict resolving skills, these will directly affect your success over time.
Expert advice helps stepfamilies avoid common pitfalls to success
Couples who attend the Blended Family Success Seminars or One Day Workshops are shown how to help children adjust, resolve issues and equip their family to succeed.