Stigmas about divorce slowly began to crumble in the ’60s & ‘70s, prior to that couples would stay together ‘physically’ long after the love was gone. Regardless of whether it was abusive, high-conflict or amicable, many stayed in it for their children during their formidable years. This still plays out today.
Regardless of your beliefs or opinions, this is a lesser-used option today, uncoupling and divorce is no longer chastised and the rise of co-parenting is beginning to show there are different ways to raise healthy children without the pain and sacrifice for the parents to stay trapped in a relationship that does not work or is not healthy.
As these couples ‘uncouple’, move on and form new loving relationships, new blended families may emerge over time. Co-parenting in the mix, couples realize communication, flexibility, patience, respect and healthy boundaries are keystones to maintaining a healthy cadence for the children.
There are so many different dynamics that play out in a blended family, add on the layer of co-parenting and there are some things to keep in mind;
- Be patient – Blending families with children takes time. Step Moms/Dads go through a transition from Mom’s boyfriend to Step Dad and time is needed to establish that new title.
- Respect relationships – Members of your blended family may be at various life stages and have different needs (ex. teens versus toddlers). They may also be at different stages in accepting this new family. Family members need to understand and honor those differences.
- The Importance of Quality Time – It is not uncommon for stepfamilies to try to bring both families together with an emphasis on uniting the family and creating meaningful memories for all, sometimes overlooking the importance of creating one-on-one opportunities between family members (ex. Stepmom + kid, + kid, step kid + (bio) kid, et al.). Remember to give yourself some quality time for yourself and with your friends. Keep in mind, it is not about going to the movies or bowling all the time, schedules and budgets may limit this. Set up situations where family members simply have life experiences together (ex. shopping, running errands, etc.), get to know each other better and (hopefully) start forging memories of their own.
- Keep a Sense of Humor – Don’t underestimate the power of a good laugh regardless of the age or relationship. Keeping things light to break up the tension helps defuse situations before they go too far. It’s not about avoiding the subject if something needs to be addressed, it is about breaking tension or behavior rather than allowing it to escalate whether it is a tantrum from your toddler or teenager.
As families blend and kids float back and forth between their co-parents, be mindful they may feel left out when away. This is one example of how you may need to shift things so your kids don’t feel left out. Rethink your quality time with your own children, your communication style and cadence with your co-parent as you forge new (deeper) relationships with your stepchildren. It is a balancing act that you and your new spouse will be stepping through along your own path, so support each other as best you can.