Two of the most significant of life’s relationships are with our spouse, and with our children. And with second marriages on the rise and pregnancies before marriage becoming more common, blended families are become increasingly relevant in today’s society.
There are so many factors to consider when blending together two established families—How are the kids going to factor into the wedding? What is the best way to explain what is going on to them? Each family and situation is different, but there are many ways to ease into creating a blended family that makes it easier and more enjoyable for everyone.
COMMUNICATION FACTOR From the beginning, before a wedding even is considered or planned, communication should always be a key aspect in the relationship between parents and their children.
“Communication is one of the most important things, especially so that the kids know what is going on and what the new situation is going to be,” Jennifer Logston, MSW, LCSW, therapist at Fox Valley Institute, says. “Communication will help to reduce stress and gives them an understanding.”
Even while they are dating, a parent should be communicating with their own child throughout their relationship about what they think about their significant other and how they feel about it moving further. “A wedding should never be a surprise to a child,” she adds.
More often than not, children will have mixed feelings regarding the relationship, and will be resistant and hesitant about their parent remarrying. But Logston doesn’t recommend asking a child for permission—rather, just letting them know how the new situation will be.
“Of course you want to say, ‘what do you think of this person,’” Logston says. “But asking ‘is it okay with you if I get married again?’ gives the wrong amount of control to a child.”
THE WEDDING When the time comes to actually tie the knot, it is important to factor in how the children and other blending family members want to be involved. Many opt for their children to stand up for them, or even be a part of the ceremony as an usher or flower girl.
“You really have to be careful to honor where the child is at with the situation,” Logston says. “The blending of a family is not to replace, but to add another person who loves them.”
Family blending ceremonies also have become increasingly popular, with parents often using a sand or candle ceremony to signify a united family. Logston also has worked with families where the children have been a part of the proposal, which can be great for all members involved.
POST-NUPTIALS When the ceremony is over, the work doesn’t stop there. Parenting and discipline is a huge part of blending families that needs to be taken into consideration during the process.
“Parents really need to talk ahead of time and understand whether they are going to parent similarly, differently, or discipline each other’s children,” Logston says.
Essentially, kids need to go into the new situation knowing whom they will be disciplined by and whether or not both parents will give out chores and punishments. The choice is completely up to the parents, and Logston recommends doing whatever works for each situation.
“Easing into it might be the best way, erring on the side of disciplining your own children but doing it with support from the other spouse,” she adds. “Resentment can come in pretty quickly, especially the whole ‘you’re not my dad, you’re not my mom’ talk.”
Every problem or difficult situation that arises can be settled pretty quickly, as long as both parents keep an open line of communication and are there to support both sides of their blended family.