How to navigate a blended family

Woman meets man. Falls in love. Woman meets man’s children. 

This scenario isn’t how most people imagine their life playing out but it’s an increasingly common reality. With many first marriages failing, a lot of people re-enter the dating pool with children in tow. 

Broken families are complicated enough without the added challenge of a new partner or their children but that’s what many people face. 

Forming a blended family requires work, careful consideration and a lot of patience from everyone. 

Risks include interference and unreasonable demands from ex-partners, having kids ‘dumped’ for babysitting purposes, increased financial pressure and the inevitable conflicts that arise trying to balance the dynamics of a newly formed relationship and family. 

So how can you cope if you find yourself in this situation?

Firstly, you need to ask yourself what you want in life?

If the answer is being part of a family – even if it involves kids that are not biologically yours – you’re on the right track. If you only want to be with your partner – and not his kids – that could be a sign you’re in the wrong place. 

Blended families are tough so you need to be tougher. As an adult, you are in a powerful position to influence the success or failure of the family so take responsibility for how your behaviour and choices impact everyone around you. 

Many kids struggle with the transition from their family of origin into a new blended family so you can expect some fireworks. 

If you stay calm and composed, the kids will have a better chance of keeping their cool. 

It’s also really important to make time for everyone, even if it’s only a 10 minute playdate with the kids, a 15 minute date with your partner and some quality alone time for yourself. Try to build routines like having a family dinner together, or watching a TV show or movie that everyone likes. These small acts can make a big difference to how harmonious and cohesive the family becomes.

You want your partner to be happy. If he is happy, he will have patience and time to be with you and make you happy. If he needs help, figure out what you can do to support him and so that your relationship becomes meaningful.

On the other hand, if you find that you’re the ex and you’re trying to accept a new partner in your children’s lives, the best thing you can do is make them your friend. That way triangulation won’t occur where your kids can play you off against each other. 

In the end, it’s the kids who end up suffering from animosity among adults. They are like monkeys – they imitate what we do – including bad behaviour and unhealthy attitudes. If you don’t want your kids to act like jerks, keep your own behaviour in check. 

Change happens within us first. We tell ourselves stories about situations so what you’re telling yourself might need to change in order for things to improve or progress.

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