I thought raising three boys as a single mom was a challenge until I added a new husband and two stepsons to the mix. Creating a blended family success story is within reach. The first rule to remember is that there is no “rule” that everyone likes each other. You hope that they do and especially hope that they don’t despise one another. Taking the pressure off of the kids and not “requiring” them to become friends is a great first step to opening up the possibility that they just might get along.
The second rule to remember is who the biological parent is and who is the step-parent. As much as my new husband wanted to come to my rescue when my 16 year old son took control of the remote, screamed at me and made a career out of trying to send me over the edge, I knew there was no hope my son would accept him if I didn’t continue to be in charge of my own children. Of course, I wanted them to like and respect my husband, but I knew that would only come with time, not by demanding it and certainly by not allowing him to discipline them. My husband was much more likely to make an impact by demonstrating respect and love to me than trying to explain to them why they should do it themselves.
Thirdly, I set up situations where we all could do a fun activity together like go bowling or go to the movies, but didn’t require that everyone participate. At the time of my remarriage, the boys ranged from 11-18. Whoever wanted to go could and more often than not, they would choose to go. By allowing them to have a say, they tended to have more fun and actually did become friends through low-key experiences rather than big family events.
Another recommendation is for each parent to look for a way to have a special activity or a meaningful connection with their step-children. This is probably not something that will or should happen immediately, but it’s important to lay the groundwork in the early stages of the relationship. It can be something as simple as a common interest in a sports activity. My husband and all of the boys are football fans so it was easy for him to start a conversation with one of my boys about their favorite team or the latest news in the football world. For me, it was a little different. I like to bake so once I discovered my stepson’s favorites, I could bake them at random times to make them feel special and important. Making an effort to do something nice and thoughtful goes a long way in putting the relationship on solid footing.
Sometimes the phrase “step” has negative connotations so I started by calling my stepsons “bonus” sons and now they call me their “bonus mom”. This small, but significant, gesture sets the tone that having each other in our lives is a blessing and a “plus” and also shows others how we feel in a subtle, but meaningful way. You can create a blended family success story with a little luck, love, and attention.