Three Tips for Embracing the Blended Family Model

In the perfect world: boy meets girl, boy marries girl, boy and girl have a child, and they live happily ever after. But in the REAL world, things don’t always go that way. Blended families are becoming the new norm in today’s society, and the “traditional” family is a thing of the past.

According to Wikipedia, a stepfamily, blended family, bonus family, or instafamily is a family where at least one parent has children that are not biologically or adoptive related to the other spouse or partner. Either parent, or both, may have children from previous relationships. And according to the U.S. Bureau of Census 1,300 new stepfamilies are forming every day.

So, since this new way of life is so common, we should have all the kinks worked out, right? Wrong. PSA: blended/stepfamilies are hard! The end. That’s the post.

No, but really, it’s a lot of hard work.

Before meeting my husband, it was just my daughter Nyiah and I. We had pretty much figured out a good flow of life for just the two of us. She and I had spent the last 10 years with each other, so we had a good flow. My husband Gary came to the table with no children. Essentially, it was like he was stepping into this unknown territory of not one but two ladies with no blueprint. Two ladies going through excessive amounts of toilet paper, two ladies eating the last of the good cereal, two ladies obnoxiously singing Beyonce songs throughout the house. Bless his heart. He was a bachelor who had to adapt his way of life and so did Nyiah. She was used to all my time and attention being focused on her. Not to mention she was creeping up on her preteen years so hormones and emotions were at the forefront. So, we had some real work to do. In the beginning I think they really had to feel each other out. They kept their interactions short and sweet, with me always a part of the equation. However, we are almost 3 years into our blended family, and they now have an incredible bond. He views her as his daughter, and she loves him as her “G-Mo” (her nickname for him).

I have a few tips that have helped my family over the years that I know could help others who are in a blended/stepfamily situation.

  1. Be realistic: I thought my daughter would instantly fall in love with my husband and that their bond would be built overnight. I mean he was a great guy, and she’s a fantastic kid, so why wouldn’t this work? That wasn’t realistic at all, and when it didn’t happen that way, I was devastated. This was one of my first missteps in our new family mode. I was close to sending us down the wrong road with those unattainable goals. 
  2. Let things happen organically: I remember when our family first moved in together, I used to try and set up these causal opportunities for my husband and daughter to bond. He would be going somewhere as simple as the gas station, and I would be like, “Nyiah LOVES going there! Why don’t you see if she wants to go!” But it was so obvious to them that I was trying to force it, which made it so awkward. It’s funny because both of them would tell me to relax and that I was trying too hard to make things “fit”. But me wanting to have this perfect family, I just kept pushing which was not the right thing to do. But hey, hindsight is 20/20 right?
  3. Give it time: Being in a new living/family situation takes time for everyone involved. Patience is definitely key. The place that my husband and daughter are today is light years away from where they started. After the first year, they began to really know one another. Gary learned that Nyiah is naturally loud when she gets ready in the morning but not intentionally to be annoying. And Nyiah learned that Gary will get her whatever she wants but he does not like to share his special snacks, so don’t bother those. Growth! There are also some things that she feels more comfortable discussing with him versus me. Apparently, I overreact, so they say. And when he enforces rules, expectations, or even punishments, she receives the information better coming from him versus me. Aint that something! LOL But no seriously, I love how their relationship has grown and how it has strengthened our family as a whole. Even with all the bumps it took to get here.

There is so much more that goes into living and growing together with your blended family, but these three steps will get you going down the right path. Learn from my mistakes, and I want to hear about some of the tips you have learned too if you’re in bonus family (that’s one of my favorite terms). Share below because we all need some advice and inspiration through growing family pains.

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