- March 17, 2022
28-year-old Brenda*(not her real name) had just graduated from campus. She had planned out the course she wanted her life to take. All was going well until she got pregnant and her boyfriend of five years completely withdrew from the equation.
She raised her baby by herself for almost 5 years until she met Kevin*. He was a divorcee with 2 children from the previous marriage. After dating for a year, they decided they wanted to start living together as a family.
Forming a blended family is not a walk in the park. This was the case for Brenda and Kevin. It was an uphill task for them to find a working rhythm. They had to find a good balance for the moments Kevin’s children came to visit, the three children trying to relate to each other. The parents also tried to parent the non-biological child, or children in the case of Brenda, who came with the new family set-up.
This made them seek professional help to ease all members of the family into this new experience. Brenda says it wasn’t as easy as she thought it would be, they tried to work it out on their own and it almost led to another separation before they got to enjoy their marriage. That is when they approached a marriage counsellor to help out.
What is a blended family?
It is a family where two adults who already had kids from a previous relationship come together. In some cases, it is only one parent who has children.
In today’s society, blended families are common. This is a setup born out of separation, previous broken marriages, and unplanned pregnancies. In worse cases, the death of a spouse. It leaves one parent with the full responsibility of bringing up a child. In Kenya, the occurrence of blended families is becoming normal and acceptable.
When two adults who have gone through separation meet and fall in love, they have a great chance for companionship and a new chance at experiencing love.
After Brenda and Kevin made the wise decision to see a marriage counsellor, they learned a few tips on how to make their new family setup work.
Here are some tips they learnt to make it work:
Becoming blended simply means trying to bring together different elements to make one whole thing. It involves two totally different people, brought up in different ways and setups, coming together. And to this equation, you get to add children from previous marriages.
Starting slowly will enable all of you to learn more about each other.
Meal times are great moments for bonding. Always make sure everyone is at the table. Find activities that can bring you all together such as watching movies, indoor board games, outdoor sports, hiking, or camping trips.
The process of coming together is always slow, it is not easy. This can be made more difficult with teenagers or older children who were used to a certain kind of life and now all that has to change.
According to the American Psychological Association , children between the ages of 10-14 have the most difficult time adjusting to the new stepfamily. Those at 15 years and above are more independent. They may not put any effort to work hard on the family being together. Some of them even count down the years to when they can move out of the house to be on their own. The easiest group to work with will be 10 years and below.
The first step in discipline when it comes to a blended family begins with the parents. You must sit down together and come up with rules and discipline styles. These will help you have a unified front with the children. They will know that no matter what, the parents are together on any arising issues.
Whenever you as the parents do not agree, make sure the children don’t see this. Your differences are best solved in private between the two of you. The children need to know that any of the parents can discipline them when they are in the wrong.
Explain to the children that, in your house, both adults can enforce consequences to any of the children, and it’s expected that the children will obey the stepparent as they would any other authority figure.
Set firm boundaries
For a new relationship to come into place, there is another relationship that has come to an end. Some of these relationships may have ended in a bitter and painful way. There are moments when such endings may come to trickle into the current relationship. This can bring a lot of friction and many times it can lead to a fresh break up.
Boundaries are very crucial in this area as it is the one thing that can make or break a beautiful union. The exes from the previous relationship must know the boundaries you have in place and also respect them.
It is also important to remember that whoever you are planning to marry or you are married to, had children with their ex. The interaction between them and the children cannot be restricted unless it’s in cases where through a court order such interaction has been restricted. In such situations, the court can sometimes assign a strict visitation plan.
That relationship can be maintained, but with set boundaries that all adults respect. Remember that whatever the parents do will affect the children. This is one area that must be worked out well by all parties involved.
A blended family is just a normal family but it needs something extra from the father, mother, and all the children. Just like a normal family, there will be laughter, tears, angry moments, and a lot of mistakes. These are all points of learning, and working on everything to make it better for a beautiful life together.