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Mine Yours and Ours. Remember the old movie? It was a comedy. In real life, mine yours and ours is a very serious matter. Almost half of the marriages today involve kids. His kids, her kids or both. When a new family is created by marriage the biological and the step parents have many unanswered questions, many unattended to concerns, many fears and the knowledge and preparedness to do all within their powers to ensure a happy blended family where the kids know they belong and are loved and wanted.
How do we ensure that our family will indeed become blended? You may start with the preparation for, and duties at the wedding. Involve all the kids and get them as excited as you and your future spouse are.
At the wedding ceremony exchange family wedding vows. Rather than vows only between bride and groom, family Wedding vows include all family members. That is, the bride, the groom and the children. Right after the vows exchange and after you exchange gifts, welcome each child to the family with a special gift of jewelry. This may follow by a FAMILY unity candle ceremony.
After the wedding, the most important thing is to put your marital relationship first as your priority and to stand together regarding rules of the household with all of your kids. In each of the following situations this may be easier said than done.
Following are a few scenarios for you to consider.
All the kids live with you,
Your kids live with you while your spouse's kids only visit,
Your spouse's kids live with you while your kids only visit, or
you have split custody with the other biological parents,
The other biological parent(s) is/are single
The other biological parent(s) is/are married.
In the latter, most severe situation, your kids would have up to 6 adults with different ideas regarding child rearing and discipline, telling them what to do.
Kids do not need things, to know they are loved and wanted. Kids need a stable nurturing home where both parents work together as a parenting team and support each other's decisions especially regarding home rules, traditions and rituals.
The main issue for your family is to have both of you establish your household rules, traditions and rituals. Do so together and in agreement and include the kids, especially older kids in forming them.
Have a family meeting or a kitchen table discussion about what members of the family would like to do on a regular basis. You might be surprised what ideas come up. If reasonable, try these suggestions. Allowing kids to contribute will make it easier to enforce these household rules, traditions and rituals without the danger of being seen by the kids as demanding, tough or unreasonable.
Don't let your rules, traditions and rituals waiver, stand together and support each other in implementing them. However, remember that as children get older and situations change, rituals and traditions may need to be adjusted.
When actual discipline is needed it should first come from the child's own parent and not from the stepparent, though the stepparent needs to back up their spouse, thus establishing for the children a parental and family cohesiveness.
Your children need to see and experience the strength of your marital relationship, your commitment to each other and to them, and the strength and stability of your family. They need to regain the security of being loved and wanted. Security they lost when their biological parents divorced or in a case of a parent's death when that parent "left them".
When you re-marry you have high hopes and often see everything through rose-colored glasses. The truth is that your second marriage especially when either one or both of you have children, is much more challenging than the first. As a new family, you go through phases.
Then comes the second phase, the "honeymoon is over phase". This is when reality sets in and members of the blended family begin to realize that they don't like something about this one or are jealous of that one or are uncomfortable with... and on and on.
Realize that it takes time, patience, understanding, respect and a lot of love to instill a family cohesiveness and bring up self-assured, secure children. Give the kids all you have got. Make it a priority to always be involved in every aspect of the child's life and be there for him or her.
If you can spare the time volunteer to help in the kids classes and always make time to be there for school, sports, and other activities the kids participate in. Your involvement and the involvement of all kids in their siblings' life will eventually bring bonding and closeness. The results will be rewarding and you'll soon forget the difficult times.
It is very important that you let the children know right from the start that respect for both parents and all siblings is paramount. Yet, you must accept the fact that you may or may not be able to develop a parental bond with your stepchildren.
Let your relationship progress naturally. Do not force a parental relationship on them. Do all within your power to earn their respect. Having achieved this, you start your family blending on the right foot.
As you strive for a united family, set scheduled time for family togetherness. Whether you call it family night, family meeting, family chat, be sure that everyone is present and that everyone shares their experiences, and what is going on in their life inside and outside the home.
Let everyone talk about what is on his or her minds and how they feel, without being judged or reprimanded.
Keep it real simple and age appropriate but do establish open communications and let the kids know how you feel as well. Reassure the children, that this is what a family is and that in your family everyone does things for the others. Let them know that they are loved and that you care for them. Instill in them the realization that all you want is for them to grow up in a happy home and feel good about themselves and their family. Before long, the kids will look forward to this time together, as it becomes part of your established blended family ritual.
Bear in mind that children have a past. They also have feelings. If these feelings are stifled, children may feel that they are being forced into a "new" family to replace their "old" family. This in turn will bring forth resentment, anger, frustration and hurt. Therefore, it is important that the children understand that they are allowed to hang onto the memories of their previous family, remember them with joy, feel happy about those times that came before or sad that they are no more, and know that it is "OK" to recall, remember and even share them aloud with each other. Through this sharing, and as they get older, they will begin to understand and realize that in the "new " family they are building new relationships and creating new memories, not replacing those they already have. Let each child, if age and ability appropriate, an opportunity to contribute to the family. Give each child tasks and responsibilities. They may resent it at the moment but thank you as they reach adulthood.
So far all seems too serious. It is! But family life is not all seriousness! Make time for fun, and do so often. Children need individual attention. Give each child your undivided attention as individuals. Just you and that child. Get to know each child yours and your spouse's. Give each child opportunities to get to know you. With all that, do no ignore each other. It is just as important, that you make sure you set aside time for each other, to foster your love and marital relationship.