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Easier Steps For Blending Families
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Patience and understanding are the keys to smoother transitions when blending children from previous marriages into one big, happy family.
"Remarriages are often more complicated than first marriages because of the presence of children on one or both sides of the union," said Louise Davis, family and child development specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service.
Important steps for a healthy stepfamily include developing a sense of unity, respecting each other and managing time together and apart.
"A major task of blended families is to develop a sense of unity," Davis said. "Stepfamilies must work toward balancing respect for individual needs and creating new common family goals."
Davis said parents may feel caught between loyalties to their own child and a desire to please their new partner, especially in the area of discipline.
"Before taking responsibility for discipline, a parent must first develop a relationship with the stepchild," she said. "It takes families about three to four years before both parents are seen as authority figures by the children."
Davis said parents need to establish and continually support each other within the family. Present a united position as often as possible.
"It's important to be firm and rational on decisions. That means parents should be able to explain their reasons behind decisions to the child," Davis said. "Since jealousies and rivalries are almost impossible to avoid, parents may often be forced to make painful choices to keep their position united as parents."
The blended family is often hardest on the stepparent who has not had children before.
"Stepparents, like all parents, often feel unappreciated and used," Davis said. "The parent should consistently support the stepparent in this new role. That may mean suppressing the urge to step in and take charge."
Managing time will probably be a major struggle for most blended families. In the same way one's personal time is important, couples must allow time to spend together without children. Parents also should find time to spend with their children outside the stepfamily unit.