How to shift the stepfamily emotional roller coaster from miserable to peaceful.
After dating for several months, Adam and Theresa realized they had fallen in love. Adam adored Theresa’s passion, honesty and independence. Theresa never thought she would find a man so affectionate, funny and articulate. Sounds like a match made in heaven, right? But along with Adam came 2 children and Theresa added 2 more. In their haze of love, they assumed their children would happily live together, since they were so much alike and loved each other so much.
Anyone that remembers the sitcom, the Brady Bunch, will recall a large happy group brought together by a marriage of mom and dad and multiple children. Even though they had occasional squabbles, mom and dad came to the rescue and everything was calmly and rationally resolved with no hard feelings. Is this reality in a stepfamily? Not typical…
If you are contemplating combining two families, you can prevent much frustration with specific dialogue and pre-planning. If you are already a stepparent and are experiencing less than family bliss, don’t despair. The following tips will help get you back to harmony:
1. Because the combination of children can be so diverse (some from each parent, from one parent only, from each parent and one together), have a clear, specific discussion regarding finances for the children. Who is paying for what? Will you have a joint account to pay for all expenses? Separate accounts? One joint account for combined household bills and separate accounts for the kids? This is critical! Don’t wait until your child wants/needs something and your spouse becomes angry because he/she would never spend that on his/her child.
2. Discuss parenting styles in advance. No two people are raised exactly the same, so don’t expect to have the same parenting styles. Be specific. Who will discipline whom? What’s acceptable and not? Don’t confuse kids or give them ammo to pit one parent against the other. When you do not agree, come to a compromise that you both can live with or your kids and your marriage will suffer.
3. Do not assume your kids will automatically like each other just because you did. If possible, before getting married, bring the two families together for fun outings. Once living together, discuss the importance of respecting each other’s space, even if they have to share a room. Encourage playing games together- cards or boards games- to help connect in fun ways. Make family dinners a priority.
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