Yvonne Kelly is the founder and co-director of The Step and Blended Family Institute in Tottenham, Ont. She is also the founder of the Stepdating Teleconference Series, a stepfamily coach and counsellor with The Stepfamily Foundation and a relationship coach with relationshipcoachinginstitute.com.
Below are her seven tips for common concerns about blending families:
1 Be mindful that kids are central to the problems, but not the cause of them. The younger the child, the easier it is for him/her to adapt to the new family situation, if supported by caring adults.
2 Don’t try to parent the other person’s children, especially in the early stages.
3 It’s human to negatively talk about your ex, but try to keep that kind of stuff away from kids. It does a number on their self-esteem and cuts right to their core. “If Daddy hates Mom, does he hate me too because I’m part of her?”
4 Convey a sense of optimism. Any custody arrangement can work. It’s all about co-parenting and communication. Kids will cope if the parents cope.
5 Don’t feel you need to have an emotional bond with your stepchild. That’s okay. It’s not a prerequisite and nothing good comes from forcing a feeling. But remember, you can still be a fabulous role model.
6 Wait at least 12 months post-divorce before dating again, date for at least six months before introducing the kids, and give it two years to see if the fit is there. If you cut corners, prepare for resistance later.
7 Choose a potential step-parent carefully, because people don’t change that much. Now’s the time to be picky.
For a closer look at different styles of step-parenting, check out Step-Parenting Know-How: Making a Blended Family Work.