Any parent knows that there is nothing more important than the happiness of their child. Even as they age and become adults, there is still no greater feeling than knowing your child is happy, healthy and loved. When your adult child enters into marriage, your family as you know it will inevitably change and grow to form a new unit, complete with in-laws and in some cases, blended families.
Have you found yourself in this situation? Read on for tips on how to find your place in a blended family.
A Blended Family
A “blended family,” more commonly referred to as a “bonus” or “stepfamily,” are terms used to describe a family that includes children and possibly grandchildren from a previous marriage of one or both spouses.
According to the American Grandparents Association, blended families come in many forms and a senior can find them self in the position of “step-grand” in a variety of ways:
- By having a grown child marry someone with children from a previous marriage
- By marrying someone with children who later have children of their own
- By marrying someone who already has grandchildren
The concept of a “blended” family is fairly new. Only in recent decades have school curriculums progressed to include a family structure beyond the typical nuclear family of one father, one mother, 2.5 kids and a dog. As divorce and remarriage have become commonplace in our society, so to has the model of merging two separate families into one “blended” unit.
As with any major life change, accepting a new family dynamic and finding your place in a blended family can be difficult and emotionally challenging.
The Challenges of Blending
If expectation is the mother of all frustration, is anticipation the grandmother? One of the biggest challenges faced by step-grandparents is the anticipated bond (or lack thereof) with their new blended family, specifically grandchildren. Forming a bond takes time – it is not immediate – and this can cause distress and heartache for new step-grandparents.
The American Grandparents Association suggests managing your expectations and instead, practice understanding: “you can’t expect all children to embrace new step-grandparents immediately, and you shouldn’t put pressure on [them] to feel something they don’t. But if the step-grandparents are patient… the kids will come around.”
Go slowly with your new grandchildren and let them get to know you in a comfortable setting. By sharing stories about yourself and your life, and being kind and gentle, the new children in your life will naturally warm up and recognize you as another person in their life who loves them.
Another major challenge some step-grandparents face is treating their step-grandchild the same as their biological grandchildren. There is no shame in acknowledging this. As human beings, it is normal and natural for us to be drawn to people we are biologically related to, however, when families are blended, you become one.
An article published by Families.com explains “step-children are well aware that they weren’t born into your family. They also did not have a choice about being married into your family. Every child should be treated as if they are equal. This means equal gifts, equal time, equal traditions, equal love, and equal interest.” Favoritism, whether blatant or subtle, is unhealthy and hurtful for everyone involved, but most importantly the step-grandchild who is left feeling rejected. It can certainly be difficult not to play favorites, and The American Grandparents Association suggests “to reinforce that ‘special’ relationship with your bio-grand, on a regular basis, set aside a special day or time for just the two of you.”
Ways to Find Your Place in a Blended Family
Read the following suggestions on how to find your place in a new family unit:
- Be equal. Treat every child as if they are equal.
- Don’t compete. It is not uncommon for children in blended families to have four or more sets of grandparents. Focus on the children and don’t get caught up in competing for “top dog” status.
- Get on the same page. Talk openly with your adult child and their spouse about your new role and how you can support their endeavor to blend their families.
- Put aside your negative feelings. You may struggle to embrace your new blended family unit, however, Families.com emphasizes “if you can’t put aside your animosity for your new daughter or son-in-law, you still must focus on having a wonderful, respectful relationship with your new step-grandchildren.”
- Seek support. The blending of two families can bring great joy, but also difficult hardships. Talk with a supportive friend, attend a peer support group or seek a professional to help guide you through the adjustment period and your feelings.
- Show compassion and understanding. Remember, the children did not choose divorce and are innocent by-products of adult decisions. Shower them with love and support.
Do you have a blended family? We’d like to hear more from you about finding your place within a blended family in the comments below.
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