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Starting a new romantic relationship after divorce, for one or both co-parents, is not uncommon. Sometimes these new significant others also have children of their own and this can present some obstacles. Not only are you introducing your children to a potential step parent, but you are combining families and giving your child new siblings.
There are many creative ways to help blended families bond, and they can begin far before you ever combine households.
Before You Move in Together
If possible, let the kids get to know each other in low-stress situations. Organize play dates and allow them to build a friendship. Plan activities that both kids will enjoy and can do together. These activities will depend on the ages of the children and the age gaps between kids, but some ideas include:
Plant a garden or do a science experiment.
Plan a movie night in with both families.
Go swimming or visit a beach.
At first, keep these events fun, short, and focused on the kids. By keeping things low-key and allowing them to get to know each other at their own pace, they are less likely to feel overwhelmed. As their relationships progress, and as yours does as well, try planning some weekend trips or staycations.
Helping Children Adjust
In many ways, introducing new step-siblings can feel like a massive disruption in a child’s life and routine. By having open conversations with your kids before you get married or move, you are giving them time to adjust. Focus on demonstrating your continued love and support for your children and provide them with verbal assurances that your relationship with them will not change.
Another consideration for parents is that children will respond differently based on their ages and development. Teenagers may be moody or try to demonstrate their authority in the house by telling new, younger siblings what to do. Help Guide has broken down the different ways that children across age groups may react in their article, “Blended Families and Step Parenting Tips".
When kids act out or their behavior changes, try to help them find ways to deal with the emotions they are feeling. Speak to teachers, school counselors, coaches, and other important adults in your child’s life to let them know what is going on. These caring adults and professionals can alert you to big changes in your child’s behavior or any actions that may be concerning and may be able to find ways they can help as well.
Balance Your Time
As you work toward combining families, you are now balancing your relationship with your kids, your significant other, and their kids.
Be mindful of the ways you are spending your time with the people in your home. Create opportunities to spend time one-on-one with each child so that they know they are all important to you. Tucking your kids in at night or bringing them along on an errand will help you create memories together and give them time to express themselves to you. In these moments, they will be able to open up about anything they are feeling, and you can give them your full attention.
As Jennifer Brozack of Mom.com shares, “until now, your children have been your primary focus.” It may take your children some time to adjust to their new normal, to accept new people into their lives, and to see other kids as their siblings. The entire dynamic of your house and your family can shift very quickly, and it is important to be prepared for that. Kids may not know how to express their feelings or may feel hesitant to share how they are coping if they do not want to upset you.
In addition, competing for attention can become an issue between step-siblings. This is where creating time for each child and maintaining open lines of communication between your children become pivotal.
Remember Your Partner
With so many changes and emotions happening with the children in your life, it can be easy to put your relationship with the other parent aside. During these transitions, it is especially important to prioritize your relationship and bond with your significant other. Demonstrate your continued commitment to them, plan dates away from the kids, and present a united front when it comes to setting boundaries in your new combined home.
Your relationship with your significant other is the foundation of this new life for your blended family. Make sure to continue getting to know each other and growing as parents and as partners.
With the introduction of parents and step-siblings, communication with your co-parent can become even more complicated. You can include certain rules in your divorce settlement about when a new significant other can move in or other considerations about the kids when it comes to step-parents. These are best discussed through a co-parenting app or with the help of your lawyer.
Using a co-parenting communication tool like TalkingParents can help to streamline your conversations, give you a place for a dedicated co-parenting calendar, and even provide you with an Accountable Payment℠ tool.
TalkingParents blogs are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Always consult with a qualified attorney regarding legal matters.