- Merging two families into one can be a challenge, as kids can be hesitant about the new family dynamic.
- That said, it can be done successfully: so long as parents take it upon themselves to improve the bond between both “sides” and make the transition as easy as possible.
- First, parents should make it a point to demonstrate love and respect with all members of the family; the children will observe this behavior and hopefully follow suit.
- Parents should also manage their expectations as they navigate this change—things won’t be perfect now or later and that’s okay.
- Additionally, it can help to work with a mental health professional: children can find counseling especially beneficial, as counselors can help them process the recent and upcoming changes.
Parents have a tough job: that is raising their kids and navigating all of the challenges that pop up along the way. Now, one of those challenges, for some parents, is introducing their children to a new mother or father figure… and potentially, new brothers and sisters too. They seek out to successfully merge both families and become one, big, happy family.
It’s called a challenge for a reason, right? Merging two families into one can be difficult, as the children may feel a little hesitant about this new dynamic. Fortunately, however, parents can take steps to improve the bond between both “sides” and bring everyone happily together. Dr. Sal Raichbach, a licensed clinical social worker at Ambrosia Treatment Center, walks us through those steps:
Leading by Example
First, you should simply demonstrate love and respect. Know that your children are watching you and looking for cues. Sal explains: “The most important thing parents need to do is love and respect each other. Children will notice, and hopefully, try to model those behaviors. If the parents can successfully help the children feel loved and secure, the family will eventually come together.” You can successfully help your children feel that love and security by…
- Listening to them
- Engaging in one-on-one time
- Letting them set the pace
- Showing them affection
- Providing balance
Managing Your Expectations
Another important piece to this puzzle is you yourself understanding that things won’t be perfect. Not at the beginning, and honestly probably never. Because families aren’t perfect. They’re oftentimes dysfunctional and that’s okay. That said, blended families might start off a little rockier… but it’ll help if you stay positive and again lead by example.
“Don’t expect the family interactions to be perfect from day one, and don’t get discouraged if there is some animosity in the beginning,” says Sal. “If children see their parents getting discouraged, it’s likely they will pick up the same defeated attitude about the situation. As a parent, try to be a beacon of hope that the blended family can be harmonious. Children don’t usually lash out at their step-siblings out of malice. They are confused and vulnerable because of the changes in their family dynamic.”
Working with a Professional
Finally, if you think you could benefit from a little extra help, consider working with a mental health professional. A therapist or counselor can assist the whole family in sharing how they feel about this change and adjusting properly. “Family counseling can be extremely beneficial for blended families,” Sal explains. “Counseling is a structured environment where all parties have a chance to speak their truth.”
Sal explains that children need time to grieve the loss of a parent or a divorce, as well as time to prepare for a new family dynamic. And counseling can be especially beneficial to them: “Children need to go through a grieving process before they fully accept a new family dynamic. When a child is forced to make this change before grieving, they can become resentful towards their stepparent or stepsiblings. Working with a counselor can help children process these changes both individually and as a family unit. It also reinforces the idea that their blended family, although different, can still work as a team and love each other.”