By Stacey Gliniewicz
Are you a step-parent? Are you surviving? I never thought I would be a step-mom, working to blend a family of five kids. Two teenagers, one with Autism, add a 7 year old, 6 year old, and 4 year old for a recipe of complete joy and chaos. If only I could secretly record dinner time at our house!
Many ask, “What does it look like to successfully blend a family?” Listed below are five strategies that have worked for my husband and me as we walk a journey filled with laughter, occasionally interrupted with tears and frustration.
Communicate with your spouse consistently; and if you can manage, it is just as important to communicate with your ex-spouse. It happens in typical families where kids play the parents. I assure you, that your child will definitely take advantage of the fact that his parents live in separate houses. One way my husband and I try to combat this, is to ‘take ten’ each day. When he comes home from work, we take ten minutes to catch up on family happenings among other family business, and most importantly how each other are doing. This helps us stay on the same page and make it through an evening filled with homework, extra-curricular activities, dinner, and daily chores.
Share the disciplinary role. Before we married, my husband and I granted each other disciplinary responsibilities to our own children. This allows our children to see us in the same light and commands respect for the step-parent. I don’t always agree with how my husband has disciplined my own children, and vice versa, but we have promised to support each other and share our grievances behind closed doors. Disciplining ‘equally’ is a tough balance to find and takes work. We are big on natural consequences, which often takes some of the ‘bad guy syndrome’ off our shoulders.
Everyone has their own space. We have set a rule that each child has their own designated space where they can escape the chaos. Only when you are invited in, can you enter someone else’s space. This alleviates the potential for missing toys, clothing, and whatever other treasure our children keep in their own space.
Sit down to dinner (or at least one meal) on a daily basis as a family. I absolutely love dinner time with my five kids and my husband. We have a table big enough for seven and almost always eat family style. This allows us to all reconnect at the end of a crazy day, tell about our days, and whatever other silly stories the kids want to share.
Schedule a one-on-one date with each of your step-children. This will allow you to build a relationship of trust with your step-child. You will also learn about each other’s likes and dislikes, and they will come to realize that you aren’t such the wicked step-parent after all. In fact, you actually are really cool! Although I didn’t actually give birth to my step-children, they are my responsibility and my own, and have taught me a thing or two about myself!
Successfully blending a family takes time. Implementing these strategies will hopefully ease the number of opportunities to steal your joy in the success of blending a family, and strengthen the relationships you are building with your step-children.