How to Gently Create a Blended Family

How to ease the transition of forming a new family unit.


Parenting, Family

(Mandy Godbehear / Shutterstock)

Falling in love and remarrying can be the second chance for a “happily ever after” that many people could only have dreamt of. But when the two people who come together are already parents it takes a lot of patience, understanding and empathy to create a healthy and loving environment for a blended family to thrive in.

Parenting Teamwork
According to Motherly, blended families, defined as homes that include a stepparent, step-sibling, or half-sibling, currently make up 40 percent of families in the United States. 

Motherly goes one to suggest that it is ideal for parents to work together and agree on their parenting approach regarding basic house rules like speaking respectfully, regulated bedtimes and meal times. This however is often easier said than done. 

A unified parenting front creates a conflict-free environment in a blended family where the parents provide backup for each other. Even when disagreements arise, parents are advised to avoid airing their differences in front of the children and instead discuss things when they are alone and feel calmer. 

Parents need to accept that there is no one correct solution and that both parties will need to compromise to find what works best for the new family unit they are creating. 

Making Time for Everyone
Adjusting to a new blended family is a stressful period for children and often they lash out at the new stepparent and reject attempts at forming a relationship. Instead of keeping their distance, Positive Parenting Solutions recommends reaching out during this sensitive time to gently try to establish a connection.  

One idea is to have one on one time with each child through what they call Mind, Body, and Soul Time (MBST) - scheduled time with no distractions (including phones, games and videos) for either parent or child. 

Another idea is to plan special “date nights” to build and nurture relationships. These date nights should be scheduled in advance and can include an outing outside of the house, like dinner at a restaurant bike riding or a hike and picnic. 

It is important to remember to be patient and to allow for lots of time and space for the children to trust their new stepparent and allow for an emotional connection and healthy relationship to grow. 

Family Meetings
An additional suggestion presented by Motherly is to hold family meetings to discuss any changes or to review rules and boundaries. By presenting a united front during these meetings, parents give the clear message they have worked together and are in agreement regarding the family rules. This clarity increases the likelihood that the rules will be respected. 

Family meetings are empowering because they allow for the voices and opinions of children to be heard and that is ultimately one of the keys to successful family blending. According to Positive Parenting Solutions,  these meetings are an opportunity to connect and solve problems together in a positive and safe setting. They also suggest making the meetings fun, by providing food or launching into a family activity to get things started

Mutual Respect
“Once you reframe your role as a parent as creating opportunities for kids to grow and learn, and become the best possible selves they can become, then you’ve changed everything,” Nora Spinks, CEO of the Vanier Institute of the Family in Ottawa told Today’s Parent. This approach casts parents in the role of coach, mentor or role model to help guide children towards self-actualization.

Positive Parenting Solutions makes the case for parents to be hypervigilant and pay attention to how they speak and interact with thier current partners and their ex-spouses. Even when it seems like they are not at all interested in what their parents have to say, at a certain level children are always listening and they can easily detect negativity or anger. By modeling respect, children will learn by example how to interact positively with each other and also treat their parents with respect.

Moving Stepdad Tale is Spreading Christmas Cheer
6 Ways to Respond to Kids’ Big Feelings
How to Reset the Family’s Screen Time