Managing a blended family can be one of the most difficult tasks that anyone will face in a lifetime. Today, a blended family is the norm rather than the exception.
If you’re part of a blended family, more than likely you already know how hard it can be to make things work. Today, blended families are more the norm than the exception. I grew up in two different blended families, both my mother and father remarried, and my teen years were divided living between both.
As an adult, I had hoped that I might have a chance at a successful marriage and be one of the lucky ones that achieved a long-lasting relationship that withstood the test of time, but, of course that didn’t happen. I married young, looking for the unrealistic fantasy, had two children and was divorced within a decade. I remarried several years later and had my third daughter, determined that true love was still possible.
17 years later, my outlook on things has changed a bit, with my expectations decidedly different. My husband and I have managed to stay married, although there have been times that both of us had wanted to call it quits. Marriage is hard work, and when you add children that are his or hers, or both, it throws yet another wrench into the mix.
Staying married to the same person for 50 or 60 years has become a rare accomplishment. According to a report by the University of Houston’s Jennifer Garcia, at least 50% of American children are raised in blended families. When taking common-law families into account, this figure is probably even higher.
Look around you. How many homes include a family with two parents in a traditional marriage that have only said their vows to each other? Having lived in a number of different locations, looking back to each neighborhood those statistics seem to be right in line with reality.
Whether you’re about to embark on a journey in a new blended family or would like to learn a little bit more about managing your blended family, here are five tips to help you:
If you haven’t already done so, be sure to have an open discussion with your spouse about your goals and expectations in regard to finances. This should be done within any marriage, but it can be even more important with the additional difficulties faced in a blended family.
If you’re afraid to talk about what you’re spending, or if you’re keeping a deep, dark secret about your finances, your marriage is likely to be headed for disaster. This was one of the first big stumbling blocks in my second marriage. My first husband became angry whenever I spent money on anything that he considered frivolous and, based on that experience, I tried to cover up even the smallest purchases from my second husband to avoid a heated confrontation. These actions only served to lessen his trust in me when he discovered what I’d done.
The financial E-Personal Finance experts give some excellent advice that we also found to work well in our family.
Consider having both individual and combined bank accounts. For example, you might have one combined account for household expenses and vacations, and individual accounts for your own personal expenses. Neither partner should feel as though they have to ask the other for money in order to make small purchases. On the other hand, you should always consult your spouse on major purchases, such as a car, big screen TV, high end jewelry and clothing, etc.
You should also consider your financial priorities as a collective, make a budget based on that discussion, and stick to it.
2. Raising children
It’s important to work as a team when raising your children, whether it’s his, hers, or both. If you each bring your own set of children into the marriage, it would behoove you to discuss how you’ll handle different situations that may arise, and come to an agreement beforehand.
When my new husband tried to discipline my daughter, she immediately reacted in a way that many children do when faced with this situation, becoming bitter and resentful. He wanted to earn her respect, and it backfired.
Instead, we found, as psychologists on the Parenthood in America site suggests, it works better to allow the biological parent to do the disciplining while the other is there for backup or support. As a new step-parent, you should move slowly and carefully in developing a relationship with your step-children. Focus on their positive qualities and allow the other parent to be the disciplinarian, but at the same time don’t let the child get away with something that their parent has already ruled against. Having a sense of humor can also work wonders.
3. Sibling rivalry
With multiple children involved, there is bound to be some sibling rivalry. According to Zeynep Biringen, Ph.D., it’s important to never try and force a positive relationship, but encourage open family discussions to resolve matters and try to focus on similar qualities and interests instead.
Biringen suggests, “From the start, treat each of your children in a special way. With new additions to the family, continue to make your other children feel special and give them extra time and attention.”
4. Take care of yourself
It’s essential to remember to take care of yourself. By continuing to put everyone else ahead of your own needs, you’ll not only jeopardize your emotional health, but you might compromise your physical health as well. I learned this the hard way, with a natural instinct to want to take care of everyone else. I ended up exhausted, unhappy and was even diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, a chronic disorder that can become worse with too much stress.
By incorporating an exercise program into my schedule, as also suggested by The Mayo Clinic, I found that it not only worked wonders for endorphins, but it also gave me more energy to get through your day. By also spending just ten minutes a day practicing deep breathing or meditation, I was able to keep my stress levels in check which gave me the ability to manage my family better.
5. Take care of your marriage
As suggested by a licensed professional counselor, it’s also important to make your spouse a priority. Williams suggests, “All married couples need adult or non-kid time together. Alone time allows husband and wife to reconnect, make plans, relax and play.”
I found that by spending all of my time on my job, taking care of the house and worrying about keeping the kids happy and healthy, my relationship suffered. It bloomed once again when we began scheduling a date alone together once a week and helped us to remember why we connected in the first place.
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