What is a blended family?
A blended family or stepfamily forms when you and your partner make a life together with the children from one or both of your previous relationships. The process of forming a new, blended family can be both a rewarding and challenging experience.
While you as parents are likely to approach your relationship and a new family with great joy and expectation, your kids or your new partner’s children may not be nearly as excited. They’ll likely feel uncertain about the upcoming changes and how they will affect relationships with their natural parents. They’ll also be worried about living with new stepsiblings, whom they may not know well, or worse, ones they may not even like.
You will increase your chances of successfully bonding with your new stepchildren by thinking about what they need. Age, gender, and personality are not irrelevant, but all children have some basic needs and wants that once met, can help you establish a rewarding new relationship.
Children want to feel:
Safe and secure. Children want to be able to count on parents and step-parents. Children of divorce have already felt the upset of people they trust letting them down, and may not be eager to give second chances to a new step-parent.
Loved. Kids like to see and feel your affection, although it should come in a gradual process.
Valued. Kids often feel unimportant or invisible when it comes to decision making in the new blended family. Recognise their role in the family when you make decisions.
Heard and emotionally connected. Creating an honest and open environment free of judgment will help children feel heard and emotionally connected to a new step-parent. Show them that you can view the situation from their perspective.
Appreciated and encouraged. Children of all ages respond to praise and encouragement and like to feel appreciated.
Limits and boundaries. Children may not think they need limits, but a lack of boundaries sends a signal that the child is unworthy of the parents’ time, care, and attention. As a new step-parent, you shouldn’t step in as the enforcer at first, but work with your spouse/partner to set limits.
Children of different ages and genders tend to adjust differently to a blended family. The physical and emotional needs of a two-year-old girl are different than those of a 13-year-old boy, but don’t mistake differences in development and age for differences in fundamental needs. Just because a teenager may take a long time to accept your love and affection doesn’t mean that he doesn’t want it. You will need to adjust your approach with different age levels and genders, but your goal of establishing a trusting relationship is the same.
Young children under 10
May adjust more easily because they thrive on cohesive family relationships.
Are more accepting of a new adult.
Feel competitive for their parent’s attention.
Have more daily needs to be met.
Adolescents aged 10-14
May have the most difficult time adjusting to a stepfamily.
Need more time to bond before accepting a new person as a disciplinarian.
May not demonstrate their feelings openly, but may be even more sensitive than young children when it comes to needing love, support, discipline, and attention.
Teenagers 15 or older
May have less involvement in stepfamily life.
Prefer to separate from the family as they form they own identities.
May not be open in their expression of affection or sensitivity, but still want to feel important, loved and secure.
Gender Differences – general tendencies:
Both boys and girls in stepfamilies tend to prefer verbal affection, such as praises or compliments, rather than physical closeness, like hugs and kisses.Girls tend to be uncomfortable with physical displays of affection from their stepfather.
Boys seem to accept a stepfather more quickly than girls.
What have you found that works to help with children feeling comfortable and happy in a new blended family life ? Contact Your Divorce Coach if you need help with your blended family.