For whatever reason, be it positive or negative, you’ve created a whole new family unit from the makings of two halves. Being a blended family is a lot like any other kind; you fight, you bond and you support each other unconditionally. If you’ve just made the move to a new family unit here’s some expert advice to get you through the transition.
Jeff Withers | Relationship Coach
From Love Dynamics Global
On merging the two halves
“When two families merge into one there is a “mix” of personalities, often clashing in the first instance. Sadly, children are the ones who will feel the most discomfort – one new parent to contend with, plus new siblings who act, think, feel and react in a way that reflects their “natural selves” in combination with the influence of learned behaviours and assumed beliefs developed initially through their parents (including the one who is no longer present). Given this potential (negative) impact, it is the responsibility of the parents to “steer” the family towards mutual awareness, satisfaction and connection. From that emerges value – where each person’s unique natural talents and behaviours become important to others in the family. From value grows trust – how much these natural talents and behaviours are valued. From trust grows “flow”, where shared value creates a family functioning and co-existing as if one, and with purpose.”
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Dr Kimberley O’Brien | Principal Child Psychologist
From Quirky Kid Clinic
On helping your kids adjust
“Children can thrive in a blended family, particularly in the absence of ongoing parental conflict.
In practical terms, parents in blended families are encouraged to help find a balance between the old and new family dynamics.
Kimberley's Top 3 tips include:
1. Speak positively about the biological parent of your child/ren at all times to ensure children feel loyal to both parents in the absence of internal conflict.
2. Use rosters or draw straws to ensure half-siblings and biological siblings are given equal opportunities and fairness prevails.
3. Have one-to-one time with each of your children (biological or not) to continually strengthen the parent-child relationship.”
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MyDeal Pro Tip:
Finding space for more kids at home
A room of their own for every child is a nice idea, but not always realistic. Bringing together two families often means expanding faster than you originally planned. If both you and your new partner have kids from previous relationships it can be tricky to find space for everyone to have their own bedroom. Maximise your space by having the kids share a room instead. Especially with younger children, sharing a room can be a great way to build on their relationship and teach them valuable lessons in living with others.
The best shared room will be a mix of practical and personal elements. For practicality, look no further than bunk beds - a double kids bed which only needs the space of one. For added personality give each child the opportunity to decorate an area of the room. Think wall decals, night lights and reclining chairs so that they both feel a sense of ownership over their shared room. Check out MyDeal baby and kids for all their shared room needs.
Dr Anna Cohen | Principal Clinical Psychologist
From Kids & Co
On being patient with new relationships
“Developing one big happy family comes with its challenges. A new step-parent or step-family alters the dynamic and life of all family members so it will take time to find a groove that is comfortable for everyone. There is no specified formula for creating a coherent and happy blended family, just remember to approach the situation with patience and consideration of everyone’s feelings.
Successfully blending a family will come down to taking the time to let relationships form naturally by getting to know each family member individually and developing a space that will allow children to feel safe, accepted and at home. As a parent, it will be your role to act as a supportive figure to both your children and step-children and help them adapt to a different lifestyle, routine and rules with new people.
Children going through change are likely to exhibit challenging behaviour that will likely be to gain their parent’s attention over other siblings. Overcoming this jealous behaviour will come down to ensuring you are still spending individual time with your children, while being cautious of not favouring any one child.”
Megan Tuohey | Relationship Psychologist
On building trust
“You can help kids adjust to being a part of a blended family in a variety of different ways.
First of all, you need to recognise that the child(ren) doesn’t have a deep bond or connection with their step siblings or new step parent, and therefore that child is unlikely to feel safe and secure in the new family until trust is built.
This means the parent of the child(ren) is required for extra anchoring, discussions and debriefs when things come up that are different to the child's family of origin. The new step parent needs to find consistent and extra care for the child that is not related to them by blood which is needed when emotions run high. Understand that for the next 12-24 months there is going to be more downs than ups, but together as a family you can build the trust and connection during this time.
Make sure to celebrate regularly, don't dismiss any feelings and provide a consistent and safe space for each member. Hold regular 'town halls' where everyone can bring their issues and 1-2 solutions to talk through. Create opportunity for fun and connection every day.
Blending a family can be difficult, but with clarity on what you are trying to create and a plan for how to consistently handle it, it can be an uplifting and deeply rewarding experience.”
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The key to success is communication. Talk to your kids and partner and we know your blended family will thrive. If you need some advice as a new step-parent take a look at our other blog here.