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Creating a new family through marriage can be a wonderful source of joy. But making the transition from two individual families into a blended family isn’t always easy. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, and with family counseling, you can traverse this new landscape with greater ease. Building bonds between family members takes time, and it’s important to understand the challenges a blended family faces so you can create healthy and successful solutions.
Stepparent & Stepchild Relationships
The death of a spouse or getting divorce are extremely painful life events that are difficult to move forward from and navigate. But when you do find love again, it’s natural to want your new family to get along. However, this isn’t a process you can rush. The bond between a stepparent and stepchild often starts out fragile, and too much pressure can break it completely. If you don’t take the time to consider your child’s point of view, you risk worsening their relationship with a new parent rather than fostering its growth.
Give Time & Space
The best way to let a bond develop is naturally over time. Meeting new people can be stressful, especially for a child, and it takes time to feel comfortable around a new parent. Instead of forcing time together or rushing into big moments, allow your child to approach a stepparent on their own time. It can feel disheartening to see your new spouse and your child not get along well right away, but forcing the issue will likely make things worse.
Talk About The Issues
If a stepchild continues to remain distant, there may be something larger than just needing time to adjust. Children can feel all sorts of new emotions that are confusing to them. In many cases, children feel a sense of loyalty to their other parent that often unconsciously prevents them from forming a bond with their new stepparent. Asking them about how they’re feeling can help them understand their own emotions and come to solutions that help them feel more comfortable in a new family dynamic.
While it can hurt when a child rejects a new stepparent, spoiling them isn’t the way to gain their trust. If you are a new stepparent, it’s important that you maintain the rules of the house already in place or adjust as needed with your partner. Remaining unified in decisions such as bedtime and screen time can help create stability during a time that is often unstable for children. With new family members and potentially new houses or schools, it’s crucial that both parents work hard to maintain control and stability to help ground a child as they navigate through these transitions.
Siblings naturally have a unique dynamic within every family. The more separated children are by age, the more likely they are to find a way to cohabitate quickly. But stepsiblings who are closer together in age often fall into sibling rivalry. Blending a family together requires learning how to live cohesively, which isn’t always easy for children to grasp.
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Give Separate Spaces
Even if you don’t have the space for each child to have their own room, it’s crucial to set aside a small area in the house for their personal use. This could be a cubby in the playroom where only their toys are stored, or even a seat on the couch only they can use. Adding new siblings to the mix can make a child feel like they’re sharing everything, especially if they were an only child before. Providing a space that’s just theirs can help them feel more in control while they’re adjusting to the new sibling dynamics.
Teach Boundary Respect
Along with establishing independent areas, it’s also crucial to teach each child how to respect boundaries. If a child doesn’t like to be touched, for example, it’s important that you teach their new siblings not to touch them, even if it’s something nice like a hug. It’s a good idea to sit down with each child individually and determine what is and isn’t okay. Then review these new rules together to ensure all siblings understand how to respect each other and live together peacefully. This allows each child to feel heard and understood, which is a crucial component in a new family.
Successfully blending a family takes a lot of time and energy. Unfortunately, this can put a heavy strain on your new relationship, which is why it can be extremely helpful to seek individual and couples counseling during the early stages of a family relationship. Doing so can help you keep perspective and find ways to help all members of your family adjust while in transition.
Seeking Help With Family Counseling
Blending a new family isn’t always simple, and it’s natural to feel like you’re struggling. With family counseling at Connected Roots, you can identify the specific challenges your blended family faces and find healthy ways to move forward. By attending counseling either as a couple or as a family, you can strengthen the bonds between new family members and enhance your new lives. Call us today at 720-593-1062 for more information on our family counseling services.