About 75% of people who divorce eventually remarry. One outcome in many remarriages is the creation of a blended family. Research on blended families indicates that it can take two to five years for a blended family to feel like a family unit.

If you are creating a blended family, here are some tips to help smooth the transition:

  • Be mindful of changes.   Change can be stressful for kids, so try to manage the amount of change they go through at any one time. Couples waiting two or more years post-divorce to remarry have the highest success rate.
  • Start with the Golden Rule.  Treating everyone with patience, kindness and respect sets the foundation for connection.
  • Have realistic expectations.  You will not fall in love with your new partner’s kids overnight just as he or she will not fall in love with your kids right away.  The previous step (kindness, patience and respect) is a good starting point.  Also, focus on getting to know each other.  Ask questions, show interest and be available. This is an ongoing process of developing a relationship.
  • Get on the same page as co-parents.  Before you blend families, have thoughtful conversations about your values and how you want to parent all of the kids.  Understand each other’s parenting philosophy about rules, discipline and expectations. Being united will be important because it provides kids with a sense of safety and security; it also minimizes their ability to “split” the parents. Having these discussions ahead of time so that you can support each other in the future is important for a strong foundation.
  • Have quality time within all the relationships.  This can feel daunting with all the new relationships being developed.  Children need quality alone time with their natural parent.  Parents also need time to bond individually with their step-children.  Families need times for whole-family togetherness.  New couples need date night or couple time to maintain connection.  How can all this get done in the limited time we have in any given day or week?  When I say quality time, it doesn’t have to mean a special, expensive outing or activity.  It can be reading a story, watching your child’s swim meet or baseball game and having dinner together. 

Thoughtful planning will provide a solid foundation for blending families.  Giving your children the space to express their feelings and talk about all the changes will also provide information about how to smooth this transition. Blended families can provide a positive experience for everyone involved as long as there is understanding and a willingness to work together.