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5 Ways We Make Our Blended Family Work
by Courtney Williams
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December 28, 2019

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5 Ways We Make Our Blended Family Work

Credit: @courtnwilliams/Instagram

When my husband and I got engaged, we went to this pre-marital blended family class at a church. The first thing the couple who was over it told us was “the average divorce rates for your ‘normal’ family is 50 percent, and for blended families it’s 70 percent!” 

YIKES! I thought to myself. 

That’s not encouraging to know that more than half of blended families end in divorce. I was determined for my little family not to fall under the 70 percent. My husband and I were both so grateful that God gave us a second chance at love and we didn’t want to screw it up. We went to classes, read books, prayed together, all the above, so that way we were prepared for the marriage we were about to enter. I just knew after “I do” we were going to march off into the sunset as this happily blended family who would live happily ever after. Especially with our kids being so young at the time ––  my daughter was just 2 years old and his son was 3 years old. I thought, “this is PERFECT.” We couldn’t have written a better love story. We thought we had it all figured out. 

Boy were we wrong. 

We thought we had it all figured out. Boy were we wrong.

Related: The Art of My Blended Family

It didn’t take us long to see that not only was our marriage going to take work, but blending our family was as well. Our first year was HARD! I honestly didn’t expect for all the issues that came up to occur. We dealt with everything from struggling to build genuine relationships with each other’s children, to having to learn how to set boundaries with all the people outside of our household that we had to deal with in our blended family – and everything in between. Now that we are approaching our 4-year anniversary, and after adding two more babies into the mix, we’ve finally figured out what makes our blended family work. This is what we learned.

WE HAD TO LIMIT OUR EXPECTATIONS

Like I stated above, I naively thought that immediately upon getting married we would be this perfect, little blended family. I told myself I didn’t want to operate like we were blended. I wanted it to be as if all the children came from my husband and I. I vowed to love my husband’s son as my own and vice versa. I found out quickly that just because we said “I do” didn’t mean that our children would fall in love with us overnight. 

I found out quickly that just because we said “I do” didn’t mean that our children would fall in love with us over overnight.

Credit: @courtnwilliams/Instagram

Just like any relationship, love and trust takes time to develop. The work must be put in to get to know each other. 

Our son is more on the shy and reserved side. It takes him longer to warm up to new people. This initially was hard for me to deal with because I felt like I was giving a lot of time, energy, and love that wasn’t being returned immediately. Once I stopped putting unrealistic expectations on the both of us, I started to realize everything I was doing would pay off in the long run. Then I saw him start to gradually accept me as a permanent person in his life. 

If you’re currently going through this, be sure to give your “bonus” child plenty of time to make the transition. Be patient, communicate openly, and do your part to meet their needs for trust. Trust me, you’ll see your investment pay off in the long run. 

WE HAD TO CREATE CLEAR BOUNDARIES EARLY ON

One of the absolute hardest parts about blending a family, especially with young children being involved, is navigating how to become an authority figure in your spouse’s child’s life. (This one topic is a whole book within itself because it can be very sensitive, and every family has to figure out what they are comfortable with.) Every family has to determine each parent’s role that they’ll play in raising children together, as well as household rules. We are big on “we don’t have to all LIKE each other, but we will RESPECT one another.” And thankfully we all actually like one another as well, haha! We also decided that the biological parent will be primarily responsible for disciplining their child, unless one of us isn’t present. In that case, we’ve given each other the authority to step in when needed. We created a list of household rules, we discussed it with all our children, and we are sure to be consistent. This has eliminated a lot of confusion. 

WE PROTECT THE PEACE IN OUR HOME 

When you’re in a blended family, there are multiple people outside of your household that you have no choice but to deal with. Mainly –– the other biological parents. With both of us having a child when we entered out marriage, we have two outside families that we have to co-parent with. If the relationships aren’t civil, that negative energy can easily seep into your household. We decided early on that we were going to be intentional about being civil. We know we can’t control others, but we can control ourselves. We always make it a point to not be purposely difficult and to approach this blended family maturely. No matter what’s going on outside of our home, we are sure to protect the peace in our home at all cost. None of our children asked to be in this situation, and with us now having two kids together, it’s not fair to subject any of these children to a bunch of tension and dysfunction. 

Related: How to Survive Co-Parenting

Children adjust to blended families better when all parents, biological and “step” parents, work together at keeping the kid’s well-being first. We were sure to let our bonus children know that we weren’t trying to replace their mom or dad, but we were just another person to love and support them.

Credit: @courtnwilliams/Instagram

WE TREAT ALL THE KIDS THE SAME

Not going to lie, in the first year of our marriage we dealt with the “your child” verses “my child” nonsense.  But we realized very quickly that created a toxic environment that leaves the door open for favoritism to take place. We want to be sure we are always being fair. And we don’t want any child to feel like they are being treated differently than any other child. Especially now that we have two children together, we are very intentional about showing the two older children the same amount of love and attention that we show the babies in the family. 

WE PUT OUR MARRIAGE FIRST                                                                                                              

It’s harder to take care of our marriage in a blended family because we didn’t have the time to adjust as a couple like in most first marriages. We had to grow and mature into the marriage while parenting. But we had to tell ourselves, without our marriage, there is no family. Us having a strong marriage benefits every single person in our family. If our kids see love, respect, and open communication between us, they will feel more secure and are more likely to model those qualities.

We are sure to have consistent date nights and set aside time for each other as a couple. And we always present a unified parenting approach to our children.

We are sure to have consistent date nights and set aside time for each other as a couple. And we always present a unified parenting approach to our children.

Related: Top 10 Date Night Ideas

We aren’t perfect and are continuously learning as we go. But we are grateful that we can be a part of changing the narrative on blended families. Especially African-American blended families. They can work, they can be drama free, and the children can thrive in them. We like to say our children just have double the love!

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