“This is so much harder than either one of us anticipated! We argue over kids, discipline, schedules...it's all exhausting.” -- Sue and Matt B., blended family of 5 years If you are in a stepcouple relationship, then you know the struggles Sue and Matt are
referring to. There are challenges unique to being a blended family that others can't possibly understand.
We all know first marriages are can be an adjustment. After all, it’s two people who are trying to learn to live together while blending lifestyles, habits and expectations. Subsequent marriages face even bigger obstacles. Now you are blending homes, kids, and finances. Add to that a high conflict ex, custody battles or co-parenting in dual households and having a "normal" life can feel impossible most days. The facts: The divorce rate for second marriages is 67%. That's right, two-thirds of second marriages end in divorce and 74% of third marriages end the same way. Couples typically report kids and finances as the top two stressors in their marriage. There are so many factors affecting stepcouple relationships. Common complaints include fights over discipline, transition day dilemmas and the stepparent feeling like "an outsider in my own home." These are hard, but they don't have to be the beginning of the end! My goal is to strengthen your partnership so you won't be a part of those statistics. There are tools and strategies you can use, I'll share the most important one now. "We want to fix things but where do we start?" I like to start at the beginning. We need to build things from the ground up, like the foundation of a house. You see, I could give you discipline strategies. I can help with making family rules. We could even work on building family relationships. None of that would matter if you don't do one thing: Build your family foundation. What is a family foundation? Your family foundation is a blending of your vision + values + goals into a family action and discipline plan. When couples start a family, or begin a blended family, it's important for them to know 3 things: 1. Our Vision -- What it is we see for our future as a family?
2. Our Values -- What values will define our family?
3. Our Goals -- What do we want to accomplish as parents/as a family? (i.e. keeping education as a priority, raising independent kids, etc.) Why is it important? Clearly defining each piece of the "family foundation" puzzle will enable you to parent well together as a team. Once you are on the same page and you are intentionally parenting based on your family foundation, you are more confident and less stressed. As a stepcouple you may find blending your parenting styles difficult because you are bringing old habits into a new family dynamic, its the whole "fitting a square peg into a round hole" dilemma. This is a different situation with different people, so you need a different approach. Think of this as an opportunity to build your new home together in all aspects, including parenting. Together you will clearly define expectations for discipline, communication, consequences and family dynamics. The bonus: you will strengthen your relationship which helps you avoid becoming yet another statistic! Is it too late to start? No! While I suggest parents begin clarifying their family foundation as early as possible, it is never too late to do a reboot on how things are handled at home. Being parents is hard work. Being parents in a blended family is even more challenging, but it's not impossible to do it well together. The family foundation is a critical key to your success in overcoming parenting dilemmas. When you're on the same page, then outside influences can do less damage. Just as every building needs a strong foundation, so does every family. If you and your partner are struggling, it may be time to take a look at your foundation, see where it needs strengthening and get to work reinforcing it with skills and strategies for becoming solid partners in parenting. If you'd like help with clearly defi