Helping Children to Adjust
Many children express some resistance to the idea of moving to a new house as their family grows or welcoming new people into their homes, but with the help and support of parents and stepparents, most kids can make the transition without too much difficulty. As long as the important adults in children’s lives are sensitive to the kids’ needs and encourage open communication, stepfamilies can blend somewhat seamlessly into a big, loving group that provides support for one another through all of life’s challenges.
Introducing Yourself into the HouseholdWhen a parent makes the decision to introduce a potential mate to their children, the kids should not feel pressured to form attachments immediately. It is reasonable to expect that they be kind and respectful, but true bonding takes a while. Rushing children to act as though they feel a kinship with their stepparent and/or step-siblings can actually slow the process of forming genuine relationships. In time, each member of a blended family will form their own opinions of their family situation, but it is important that family relationships are allowed to develop naturally.
Creating a Fun and Supportive EnvironmentChildren in stepfamilies may have to tolerate a great deal of upheaval in a relatively short period of time. They may be asked to welcome their parent’s new spouse into their daily routines, share time and space with step siblings, and in some cases, to move into a new house, leaving the comfort and familiarity of their previous neighbourhood and school. With all of the potential for stress and hard times, it’s important that parents make the effort to create a home environment that is loving and supportive so that their children can focus on the good things about being part of a family.
Scheduling time for family outings as well as making the effort to focus on each of the children one-on-one can help kids to grow comfortable with their changing lives. While today’s busy lifestyles can make it hard to find “down time,” family time is valuable and is worthy of being placed at the top of the priority list.
Making Changes GraduallyIdeally, the inevitable changes that children must endure when their parent remarries should be introduced gradually so that the transition is as seamless as possible. In most new stepfamilies, some changes to household rules are implemented to accommodate the new living arrangements and while it is understandable that change may be necessary, it is easier on the children if they are allowed to move slowly into the new order of things. Parents and stepparents need to introduce rule changes over time, with the most important being tackled first.
Respecting Children’s FeelingsAll children, as unique individuals, handle change differently and their parents and stepparents need to respect each of their children’s styles of expression. Kids deserve the support of those who care for them and while parents and stepparents may view the blending of families as a positive and exciting time of their lives, their children may take some time to come to the same conclusions.
There are a number of factors that can influence children’s response to becoming part of a stepfamily, including age, maturity, social ability, and depth of the relationships that already existed between their family members before the remarriage. Being sensitive to kids’ needs and encouraging them to be open about their feelings creates an atmosphere of love and trust that in time, can serve as a solid base for a happy blended family.