When you enter a dynamic in which your family becomes blended, it’s reasonable to assume that this change will come with a unique, unprecedented set of challenges and joys.
Every individual, every family, every parent, every child, and every dynamic is different. But there are a few key points that seem to be universally relatable to most people in this blended family living situation.
Let these six tips guide you as you make your new blended family work.
1. Focus on What’s Important
Having a new person in your life — whether it’s a new stepparent to your child, or your partner’s ex, or your new bundle-of-joy stepchild — presents all kinds of new emotions, feelings, and predicaments to deal with.
There are so many parts of your new life that are out of your control. Thus, it’s helpful to have a focus that you feel good about and fosters the vitality and quality of the child’s life. Make your focus the child.
Kids don’t choose to have this life. Having a blended family is a product of decisions that the adults have made. So, they certainly should not feel the negative ripples and aftereffects of it. The parents owe it to the child to make this transition feel happy, amicable, and healthy.
With the conflicting personalities and new routines that come with managing the life of a blended family, it’s helpful to always keep the child’s best interests in mind. Don’t try to manipulate the other side of the family or try to control every situation. Be pure at heart and do the right thing, which means giving the child the most balanced, joyous, positive life that you can.
2. Be Confident in Who You Are and What You Bring
If you get caught up in the comparison game, worrying about what the other parent is doing, you’ll go mad and be miserable.
Witnessing this happen over and over in blended families is a sad reality. Oftentimes, one parent struggles to move on and find their own independence and happiness, so they try to trash the other parent who is stable and thriving. Living like this is a sure way to lose your marbles. Realize that trying to compete with the other parenting party is an absolute waste of your time. Along with that, it robs you of what you bring to the table. Anytime you spend your energy on comparing, you give away some of your own joy.
You will never be a great co-parent when your life revolves around trying to compete. Instead, treasure and cherish the relationship that you have with the child, foster that, put your time and energy into that, and respectfully support the child’s relationship with the other parent. That approach is healthy for both the child and for you.
If you don’t want to raise a child consumed with comparing themselves to others and worrying about what others are doing, then don’t be that person. Be what you seek in your child.
3. Ditch the Possession Mindset
In our society, there is an overarching theme of claiming possession. In other words, you want everyone to know what is yours, all the time, putting your stake in the ground and being defensive to anyone who tries to show support to your spouse or children. This mind frame is very much a result of insecurity.
When you are confident in who you are, your feathers don’t get ruffled when another person — parent or stepparent — shows love and support for the child in your life. You love them with all that you are, parent them as best you can, and you let that be enough. There’s not this overwhelming feeling of, “They’re my kid.”
We aren’t given the blessing of relationships and a family in our life to own them. We have them in our life to love them. There’s a difference.
4. Be Reliable
Everyone can agree that being chronically late, absent, or unreliable is a terrible quality to have. Not only does it mean you’re not being there for your child, but it means that you are teaching them it’s OK to live your life that way.
To avoid this, simply think: Do what you say, and say what you do. Don’t make promises to your child that you can’t keep. Doing that is shooting yourself in the foot. Kids are smart. They will soon learn which parents are sincere and follow through and which ones are not to be relied on.
5. Know That Others' Insecurities Are Not Your Problem
As a parent in a blended dynamic, you may feel that you’ve got to reel in your love and support for the child because it makes the other parent or stepparent uncomfortable.
The problem with this is that the child is the one missing out. You are short-changing them by not simply being yourself around them. Give them all of you. They deserve that. Don’t get caught up in how others react to you truly supporting the child with pure and good intentions.
6. Be the Person You Want Your Children to Be
Life can be challenging, it can test you and it can push your limits — both physically and mentally. This means it’s easy to lose your cool, become frazzled, or overreact to issues that present themselves. While we all have those moments, it’s important to remind yourself that your child is watching and soaking it all up.
You are the person they look to in order to differentiate right and wrong. The emulate you, copy you, and will likely take after the way you live your life. So, be very mindful and aware of the person you are and the integrity you live with. Let this inspire you to be the best version of yourself.
Jesica Salyer graduated from Midwestern State University with a B.S. in kinesiology. She has 10 years of experience in volleyball coaching and mentoring, seven years working in fitness training and coordination, and experience playing collegiate volleyball for Rutgers University. She also created RunOnOrganic.com and co-founded Further Faster Forever, a community created to encourage active individuals to challenge themselves.