Introducing a new parent into a family is hard enough on its own. But what happens when two families come together?
These days, it’s not uncommon that both spouses have children from a previousmarriage and, while the Brady Bunch made it look easy, the solution isn’t always as easy as just buying a bigger house. To make the transition as smooth as possible, you need to prepare yourself for some of the challenges ahead:
Two sets of rules – who wins? Imagine that Mary has always been strict about video games, allowing her children to play no more than one hour per day. Her new husband Joe, on the other hand, doesn’t see the big problem and has always been much more lenient with his children in this regard. Now that Joe and Mary have married, which rule will be enforced? While Mary may have good reasons for such a rule, the truth is that Joe’s children are going to blame Mary for the sudden change in their lifestyle. And while video games may not seem like such a big deal, the resentment that Joe’s children will feel is very important indeed. The solution? Obviously both sets of rules can’t coexist in this instance since it will create jealousy among the children. Instead, both Joe and Mary are going to have to come to a compromise and it needs to be one that doesn’t drastically disrupt the leniency that Joe’s children have become accustomed to. In cases like this, it may be best for Mary to just let the issue go for the time being and revisit it at a later date after a stronger bond has been formed in the family unit.
Setting Expectations During the courtship, most couples are busy planning the wedding and deciding where to live so it’s no surprise that they don’t stop to think about the mundane and day-to-day stuff. But when two families come together as one, those are things that need to be sorted out up front and with everyone’s involvement. Chores for example can suddenly become a big issue as the kids are now dealing with double the household. As a result, doing dishes is instantly a much bigger job than it was before and you may sense a little resentment from the child blessed with this particular job. The best way to approach these things is to come together as a family and lay out the expectations of each member. Give your kids a voice in the process and divvy up the chores and responsibilities so that they’re as fair and reasonable as possible. Talk about everything from grades to mowing the lawn. Who will do what and how often does it need to be done? Is there allowance to be paid? Will everyone get the same amount? Of course, you and your spouse will want to work out at least a basic plan of action before your family meeting to give you the opportunity to anticipate any issues that might come up. Then, when you’re ready, call all the kids together and sit down and talk. Explain your objective and ask for their input. The important thing here is to show them that all of the family members (you and your spouse included) are sharing in the responsibility of keeping the house running smoothly. Each family member will have their own set of duties to take care of but you’re all working together as a family unit.
Honor The Previous Family Too Recognize that everyone in that house is used to something just a little different than what you have now and do what you can to honor that. If there are parenting agreements in place with former spouses, then both you and your new spouse need to respect those agreements and encourage your step-children’s relationship with their non-custodial parent. Likewise, any family traditions need to be embraced by encouraging both your children and your step-children to think of ways that you can all share in the fun as a family.