Dr. Linda Mintle answers your questions each month in the "Real Life Solutions" department of ParentLife magazine. This month Dr. Linda answers questions about losing baby weight and minimizing frustration due to the "terrible 2s." Each month we post an extra question on the blog. In this month’s extra questions, Dr. Mintle gives some advice about blending families.
Q: I am a divorced single mom of a 4- and 6-year old, but I am about to remarry. Right now, my children are stable and I am worried about blending two families. My fiancé has a 9- and 10-year old. What do I need to know in order to make a smooth transition for all the kids?
A: Blending families is a complex process and takes time. Your concern is good considering divorce destabilizes children and requires a new adjustment. When you remarry, your children will be destabilized once again. The following list covers the big issues involved.
Blending families is easier in the following situations.
- There is a reasonable interval between marriages, allowing children and you to grieve losses. People do not always give themselves enough time to grieve losses before moving on to new relationships. Do not be in a hurry to remarry if enough time has not passed.
- Custody changes at the time of remarriage. If you can work out custody issues before the remarriage, it helps minimize the number of changes the children must undergo.
- Both extended families approve of the remarriage. The more buy in from your extended families, the more support, encouragement, and help they will offer.
- Children have access to biological parents. Make sure your children know they will still see their biological father.
- Ex-spouse conflict over children is minimal. The more you can problem-solve with an ex-spouse and develop a system that works, the better.
- Your children are younger than teens. The older the child, the harder it is to adjust to a new family.
- You allow an adjustment time of two to four years. This may sound like forever, but it takes time for adjustments to stabilize.
- The immediate goal is mutual courtesy versus mutual love. Remember you picked a new family, your children did not. Children must behave and be polite, but do not force their love or immediate acceptance. When they miss Daddy, acknowledge their loss. Do not say: “You have another daddy now.” Rather: “I know you do.”
Many newly blended families hope for instant acceptance and intimacy, however it takes time for family members to feel a sense of belonging. Talk about the changes to come, allow time for feelings to be acknowledged and discussed, work with extended families on the upcoming changes, and keep God the center of your family life.
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