The first step towards blending of a stepfamily is both parents taking a commitment to constantly work at their problems and not give up when the going gets tough. Both of them have to understand the complexity of the situation before getting into it, since children with sensitive minds are going to be involved in the process. They also have to consider the financial part of the whole deal, well in advance, to prevent conflicts at a later time (APA Health Center 2004). The biological parent has to convey the idea of starting a stepfamily to the child, long before it actually becomes a reality.
This is to ensure that the child is given enough time to cope up and become comfortable with the new arrangement. Before starting a stepfamily, both partners have to ensure that they have sorted out issues from their past marriages. They should take adequate time to heal and recuperate from the old relationship, so that they are emotionally ready to start another relationship. After all, a bad relationship certainly cannot sow the seeds for a successful stepfamily. Kids are very susceptible to their environment during their formative years.
Hence, both parents should exercise extreme caution and restraint to prevent the child from witnessing conflicts and arguments, in order to be healthy role-models (Way2Hope). Parents should be mentally ready to handle disappointments and maladjustments at first, since a stepfamily is certainly not designed to be an ideal arrangement. The key is to gradually build respect and trust with members of the stepfamily. Children need to be constantly reassured that they were not responsible for the breakup of the previous marriage with the biological parent, especially if the cause of separation is the death of a parent.
There needs to be an open communication channel with the children in the form of small discussions, so that children are not left stranded with confusions, unanswered questions and pent-up emotions. A parent has to ensure that stepchild and biological child are not discriminated and given equal attention. It is indispensable for a parent to talk alone with the biological child as well as stepchild, so that they can understand each other better. They have to find ways to connect to the children by forming new family traditions that take place on a regular basis.
One of the aspects of a closely-knit family is doing things together, which brings in team spirit and the joy of sharing. Once a family tradition starts to happen regularly, it gives a sense of togetherness to the children and would be a step in the right direction towards building a blended family. Family game nights, monthly picnics, yearly vacation and Thanksgiving Day dinner could all very well be good family traditions that could live on for years, maybe even generations.
Care has to be taken to ensure that the relationship between the stepchild and biological parent is sustained, since the child needs care from the biological parent to experience a wholesome childhood (All About Life Challenges). However, children growing under joint custody of separated parents end up being raised under two households with different rules and practices (National Stepfamily Resource Center). Hence, this may lead to the child getting mixed messages from both parents and being forced into a state of confusion.
Hence, both the biological parent and step parent have to talk with each other and come to a conclusion about the methods of disciplining and treating the child. Even after doing these things right, if the child finds it hard to adapt to the blended family, the parents should give it some time for things to work their way out naturally and be open to the idea of seeking professional help if needed. Giving children space to make up their own minds at their own pace is the key to building new relationships with them.
For instance, it is not fair to expect a stepchild to address a step parent as “dad” or “mom” since their biological parent is not replaceable (Jaffe et. al 2008). In due course of time, family bonds would eventually grow stronger as the child gains respect for the step parent. Reference: All About Life Challenges. Blended Families – Common Sense. Retrieved 9 July 2008, <http://www. allaboutlifechallenges. org/blended-families. htm> APA Health Center. (2004). Families: Making Stepfamilies Work. Retrieved 9 July 2008,
<http://www. apahelpcenter. org/articles/article. php? id=41> Jaffe. J, Segal. J, Hutman. S & Barston. S. (2008, 8 January). Blending Families: a Guide for Stepparents. HelpGuide. Retrieved 9 July 2008, <http://www. helpguide. org/mental/blended_families_stepfamilies. htm> National Stepfamily Resource Center. Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved 9 July 2008, <http://www. stepfamilies. info/faqs/faqs. php> Way2Hope. Blended Family Problems. Retrieved 9 July 2008, <http://www. way2hope. org/blended_family_problems. htm>