how in the f@#k do you blend a family these days
One of the most common questions we get from clients, potential clients, coaching clients, friends, family, social media is how in the hell we managed to blend our families? Tracy and I have 4 kids between us, 3 of which are hers, and even with just the three of them it's a lot of energy. Throw in my son and me, and we have a houseful. So how do you navigate all of this and still manage to keep the relationship the top priority? I figured I'd give my two cents on this and what we've found to be helpful in what can seem like an insurmountable mountain of blended personalities, habits, routines and energy.
First and foremost you cannot gloss over this process or put it on the back burner. Yes there will be times it's all fun and games, but for this to really take hold you need to experience real life as a group. I can promise you this, the first time you each spend significant amounts of time with the others children, you're going to have some real holy shit moments. Coming together as a couple and then bringing two families together can be overwhelming for everyone involved. The quicker you ease into real life situations, the quicker and better each individual will adapt. We can't force anyone to like it, but if the relationship leads the way, the kiddos will follow.
We all parent differently. We all think we are the best parents in the world. Walking into a blended situation thinking your counterpart is 100% on the same page as you as a parent is only setting yourself up for expectation failure. Here are a few things to remember as you become blended. 1. Don't expect to instantly fall in love with your partners children. First off, if the expectation is that high, you're going to be let down. Allow these relationships to evolve. They're kids, we can't judge them based on one experience with them. Ultimately the partner you've chosen will hopefully be in alignment with what you'd want in your counterpart as a parent so you can rest knowing the kids will follow their lead. Kids will also feel your energy and if you go into it with the expectation they're going to love you and you get kick back, you'll need to take the lead and show them how much your really care about them and their parent.
2. Don't rush the changes. It's probably not a good idea to move in together 3 weeks after you've met when children are involved. Too many changes too quickly can and will leave kids unsettled and uncomfortable. Tracy and I eased into each of our kids lives. I'll admit at first it was difficult for me to take the back seat and just allow. Today, I love those kids as if they're my own, and I can see their bond with me growing each time I see them. It's amazing to see the relationships with each evolve and the joy we each get out of each other seems to grow as well.
3. Be respectful. As parents we must show each parent and child respect. This can all be very confusing for kids, but if they see the respect between the adults as well as respect for the kids lives, the response will be great for everyone. This will also help out when it comes time to parent your partners kids. I noticed that as they got to know me, as they saw me with their mother, they trust me and listen to me. Now I have no issue asking them to do something or clean up or help out, because they've seen me do the dishes, help mom, hug and love on mom and show their home respect.
4. Parents! Get on the same page before you get married, before you move in together. Children need to be led. Children crave direction and boundaries and structure. When both parents are on the same page about how to handle conflict, manage expectations, and go about daily routines, the kids will respond positively. I promise. Do not fracture your relationships with your kids by pushing them on each other and not having shared vision on what you both want for your kids.
5. Everyone's need for attention. Our kids are all under the age of 8 so we have A LOT of neediness in our house. My son is an only child, and I am i middle child so our neediness is at an all time high. This can be where everyone gets overwhelmed, especially mom. I believe it's important for the couple to make sure they are putting the needs of the relationship first. I know, I know, someone is going to comment on putting the kids first. I have completely changed my view on this as I now can see that if the children see the example from the parents everyone wins. The parents genuine and undying love for each other, it will ultimately spill down and create immense bonds with the children. Again, kids need to be led. A parental partnership that shows unconditional love and support will undoubtedly show in how your children behave.
Now I should probably say, I have no idea what it's like to blend a family where the kids are older than 8. I have no idea what it's like to walk into a teenagers life. So yes, I may have had it a little easier because children under 8 are much more easy to get along with, they don't typically have anything negative going on in life that makes them angry or resentful. Yes they do have their own experiences with the split of their parents, but typically younger children are just happy to have someone to play with. I will say this though. Anytime you bring multiple kids together you're going to run into obstacles and challenges. Always remember why the two of you came together, the joy you get from your children, and what the shared vision is for your new family. With those things in tact, no situation is insurmountable.