Over time families change and evolve. One example of this is when a parent forms a new relationship after separating from their child’s other parent. This results in different types of family structures which are referred to as blended families.
Each family unit is unique and has its own challenges. The best way to make your blended family work is dependent on your individual circumstances and we have outlined some tips from our experience in dealing with blended families below to help you.
Whilst entering a new relationship and forming a new family unit is undoubtedly exciting, it is important to set realistic expectations. Whether it is you or your partner, or indeed both of you, that have children from a previous relationship, bringing your family together to form one household can be stressful.
It is important to be honest with your partner about what your expectations are. It may be useful to discuss the step parent’s role in the child’s life, for example, to what extent will they be involved in disciplining the child. By having this type of discussion with your partner you will ensure that your expectations are clear from the outset.
Depending on the age of the children you may wish to discuss and agree ground rules for the household. This will help the children to understand and feel more comfortable with the new family dynamic.
In addition to discussing your expectations in relation to your new roles within the family, it may also be beneficial to discuss how you wish to arrange your finances. Whilst some partners combine their finances to varying degrees, others prefer to keep them separated. There is no right or wrong answer and you should do what you consider best for your family.
Impact on your children
It is important that you and your partner appreciate the effect your new family arrangement will have on the children. They are undoubtedly adjusting to their new living arrangements and will be experiencing a variety of emotions.
Whilst they may be excited, they may also feel anxious about the future and worry about how their other parent feels. It can help to take the time to speak to your child one to one about how they feel and to provide them with reassurance and support.
Your child should know that you value their feelings and their opinion on matters. Depending on your child’s age, you should ensure they are involved in making decisions that affect them. It can be very helpful to carve out “one to one” time for your children to spend with you separately from time they spend with you and your new partner.
Additionally, it is very important that both you and your new partner acknowledge and respect the children’s relationship with their other parent. To that end, you should avoid speaking negatively about the child’s other parent when your child is around. You should encourage the child to enjoy their time with their other parent and ensure that they feel comfortable talking with you about the time they spend with their other parent.
Work on establishing and maintaining good relationships
The importance of establishing good relationships within your family unit should not be underestimated. You may find it useful to find an activity that the children enjoy doing and ensure you join them on a regular basis as it provides a good opportunity for you to bond as a family.
Whilst focusing on building a relationship with your partner’s children is important, it is also important to be realistic and you should not expect to be accepted as a step parent straight away. Another useful way to maintain good familial relationships is to develop family traditions with the input of all the family.
The information provided in this blog is general guidance only. If you require legal advice and support, please contact our family law team.