Single parents often struggle with transitioning from being “single” to incorporating new “love interests” into their life with the kids. Knowing when and how to introduce them to the new person can be challenging. The balance in the new relationship can be concerning for children and parents. If the new significant other also has children, you must determine how and when to introduce them to one another. All of these things can be difficult and stressful.
Once you also decide to get married or live together, this gets exponentially more complex. However, you can do it. Take a deep breath and consider each of the factors involved in successfully transitioning to a blending family.
Telling the Children
Letting the children know what is happening is not always easy. They are often concerned about how their lives will change and might be angry. You will need to ensure you and your new partner or spouse are both presenting a united front and let them know what will change and what will not. Be honest with your children. You know that you will not replace their other parent, but to them, it could seem that you are trying to do just that. Let your children know that they can come to you with any concerns and that their other parent will remain important in their lives. Let them know how important their feelings are to you and that you will work hard to help them feel comfortable in their new environment.
Single parents often struggle with transitioning from being “single” to incorporating new “love interests” into their life with the kids.
Setting the expectations for the new family needs to be done as a family. All parents and children should work out how things will change and what each person’s role will be. Both sets of children will need to be equal, and they need to know that their concerns and struggles will be heard. Give them frequent opportunities to voice concerns.
Adapting to a Blended Family
Transitioning to a blended family means that you will go from being the only adult in the house to having a new adult and maybe even new children. You will want to make each person feel welcome. It will take time to adapt to new people’s schedules and habits. Carefully organize chore schedules, daily schedules and expectations, and personal items. Each person needs to have their own space and private areas. Everyone will need to have time alone and a space they can call their own. Be patient and create a good balance. Adapting will not be done in a day or a week. It takes time to learn about your new family.
Emotions that Send Red Flags
Blending families is challenging in the best situations. Sometimes, the disruption to your child’s environment or households is nearly devastating. If blending families means that one or more children change schools, your child may begin to suffer from emotional stress. Spotting red and yellow flags can be difficult for parents. However, sometimes you need to understand what to look for to help children.
- Outbursts – Emotional outbursts send red flags immediately. They are one of the easiest to spot. Children who are having trouble accepting the changes will begin to act out and experience emotional outbursts. You need to immediately speak to your children and maybe even get them to a counsellor.
- Resistance to the “New” Parent – Sometimes, parents will notice no matter how friendly or stern the stepparent is to the children, they are resistant to a new person of authority. Phrases like “you are not my mom/dad” and “I don’t have to listen to you” are common amongst children who are struggling to cope with the new parent.
- Withdrawing – Children who begin to withdraw from their parents and families may be having issues dealing with changes. Spending more time in their personal spaces, wanting to visit the other parent more, and talking about the past may send “yellow” flags. Many teenagers will withdraw some as they are changing, so these may not be red flags related to the stepparent.
Creating a Healthy Home
New dynamics are a primary concern. These dynamics depend on the function of the new family. One thing to carefully consider is that you do not want to make the children feel that you or your new spouse is trying to replace their other parent. The dynamics involve more than who their parents are. Here are a few things to consider when working to successfully transition to a blended family.
- New Roles- If both partners have children, there will be times that the stepparent must discipline or correct the children. The other parent may not be around (at work) or may be unavailable. While all parents, step or biological, should hold authority, there may be lines that you do not want to cross. Some biological parents want to be the ones to discipline their own kids, but may also be agreeable to allow their new partner to do some disciplining. There needs to be discussion around what each of you are comfortable with in terms of disciplining your step children.
- Dealing with Difference of Opinion- Sometimes, a stepparent will have an opinion on what constitutes a punishable offense, but the biological parent will disagree. Do not undermine each other on this front. Children should see a united family.
- Non-custodial Parents- If the blended family is the custodial family, they not only need to present a united front at home, but they also need to work with the non-custodial parent to ensure that each person is on the same page. If you are the non-custodial parent, be sure to “have the other parent’s back” regarding punishment, privileges, and expectations. You’re balance two households working with your new family and your new partner while maintaining your balance with the kids with their biological parent.
Blending two families with two different cultural norms, values and routines will not be easy. But if you love your new partner and you know you can’t live without each other, your love will get you through the hard times. You need a lot of patience, love and understanding to get through these trying times. The process will not be instantaneous. It will take a bit of time for all of you to adjust to the new dynamics in the home, the new rules and traditions that you will develop together.