The Good and the Bad News: “There are No Instructions”
17 Nov 2016
By, Jim-WAF Contributor
I have never written a blog before, but the relevance “We are Families” really struck me. I am a bio-dad in a blended family with 4 children – ages ranging from 6 to 22. We have been a blended family for over 7 years now, and I think I have literally seen just about everything, and made enough mistakes to fill a book – but I will focus my blog on what I feel the ‘basics’ are for new bio mom’s or dad’s in this scary but exhilarating journey of blending families. And remember – there are no instructions. So if you are like me, you will make mistakes, take a few wrong turns, but it is a fantastic journey and one I am proud of.
Step 1 – It’s new, so of course it’s “new”. While starting your new relationship don’t forget it is a new relationship for the children as well. I was so excited starting my new journey, that I often forgot to understand the changes going on with the kids. It is a big step for them and obviously something very new to them. So – do your best to keep things natural and free flowing. None of us would like to feel “forced” into liking someone. The children are no different than us, take it slow, let the children learn on their own terms. And always keep in mind that with anything new – there will likely be bumps, but as the bio-parent you must remain steady and allow the relationship to form naturally.
Step 2 – Keep to the basics. My biggest error in forming the blended family was trying to be “super fun dad” when we had all of the kids for the weekend or week. “Super fun dad” isn’t real, and the kids will see right through it (eventually that is – who doesn’t like going to amusement parks and eating out for every meal? – lol!). It took me a while to learn – but part of the success of a blended family is sticking to your basics and not trying too hard. Kids need structure, kids need discipline (when appropriate), kids need hugs, kids need love, kids need help with homework – you see where I am going. Don’t allow the changes going on around you change who you are – and don’t let it change your principles with the family.
Step 3 – Establish your Partner. As you move forward in your blended family – ensure you are truly a blended family in all aspects. This means the role of your partner is huge…and it’s up to you! That’s right, no free ride here…this is likely the most important aspect of forming the blended family. It is up to you (bio mom or dad) to ensure respect is formed for the non-bio parent. If you are like me, you are likely starting the blended family with bias from the former. You may not even know it – but the former family structure had certain nuisances around birthdays, Christmas, etc. Do not (repeat do not) allow this to spill over into the blended family. Make your own new traditions, together. Not only should your forge your own new traditions, but always show your respect and love for your partner freely in front of the children. It is ‘okay’ for them to see what a happy, loving relationship looks like.
Step 4 – At the end of the day, they don’t have a vote. I certainly made my number of mistakes here. The comment pertains to the kids. In my particular situation, the kids used the new family structure to try to “one-up” their status…almost trying to be equals. Well they are not. You are still the parents – act like it. It may seem small, but during the evolution of your new blended family, don’t allow the kids to “one-up” there status. Think of when you were growing up – did you get to vote when to do chores or when to take out the trash. Nope. As with #2, keep to your basics and not everything is fun. As you are trying so hard to have everything go well in the new family structure, don’t forget the kids don’t have a vote – and chores still need to be completed, manners still need to be respected and homework has to be completed.
I as stated before, this is my first blog. I am not a therapist and certainly not a psychologist. I am just a bio-dad in a blended family who has made his share of mistakes and lessons learned in creating a loving blended family. I hope you find my blog helpful as in our society today, we need to learn how to make blended families more successful.