According to a 2012 finding from Stats SA, over 22 000 marriages end in divorce with 65% remarriages. This makes blended families an increasing reality. According to relationship experts, blended families occur when two partners who have children from a previous relationship form a new family unit through marriage or cohabitation. Here are things to keep in mind when blending your family:
6 Things to keep in mind when blending your family
While merging two families is not a new phenomenon, it is not an easy one. It needs a commitment from everyone involved in order to work.
1. How children are affected
One of the issues affecting blended families is how strongly the child will bond with the step-parents, says Johannesburg-based psychologist Rudzani Mashige. Usually, children who are under a year old bond well with the new parent. “However, children who are older may have formed attachments with the biological parents. In this case, they may seem to have competing loyalties to either parent.
2. Your partner’s family
While you might enjoy the romantic side of establishing a new relationship, how you relate to your partner’s family also comes into play. Not getting along with his family, especially children, may cause stress and anxiety in the new family unit you are trying to establish. You have to consider how he might feel towards your children, too.
Relationship expert Paula Quinsee advises that you consult a professional or therapist to assist you to find a middle ground and ways to build a relationship that is respectful to all concerned. “If the couple has a strong relationship and can work through any situation with mutual respect, a blended family is possible to maintain. It will also benefit everyone involved.”
3. How to make it work
Although a marriage with children from previous relationships brings with it many challenges, you can make it work. Thabiso Khumalo gets along with the mother of her step-children, which has made her blended family blissful. “As a mother to a nine-year-old son, I didn’t want to punish my ex-boyfriend’s girlfriend for my failed relationship.
So, I respected my boundaries with him after our break-up. Fortunately, my husband’s ex-girlfriend also felt the same way, and we get along well. I am fortunate that she allows me to raise her daughter since we live with her. We are a team in raising our children, and all it took was a decision to set our feelings aside and raise strong, happy children.” Below is how to make this setting work:
4. As a couple
Rudzani advises that you first establish a relationship that is more akin to a friend or counsellor, rather than your step-children’s disciplinarian. Couples should also agree that the custodial parent remains primarily responsible for control and discipline until you and the kids develop a solid bond. “Until step-parents can take on more responsibilities, they can simply monitor the children’s behaviour and activities, and keep their spouses informed.”
5. The children
Discuss the role the step-parent will play in raising your children. Additionally, discuss household rules and reach an agreement on how discipline should be carried out. Paula stresses the importance of communication to build trust. “Children need reassurance that they are in a safe and united family unit by being treated equally.”
6. Extended family and friends
Absorbing into your partner’s family might not be easy, especially when they cannot let go of the ex. But, Rudzani says you two should create a family unit free of influence from extended family members and friends. Do this by standing up for each other and making communication a key ingredient to blending your family. While at it, savour the beauty of new beginnings while creating a healthier and happier family unit.
But does it work?
It sure does. Watch Alicia Keys’ music video ‘Blended Family’ showing how Alicia, her husband Swizz Beatz and his ex Mashonda Tifrere appear to have found the perfect balance to co-parenting.
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