I believe I have the two BEST step-parents in the entire world. It absolutely goes without question that I am their child and they love me as if I were their own. It has not been easy or fun at times, but the hard work and commitment to our family and to each other has been 100% worth it.
Let me make clear the statement, “not easy or fun”. I was not easy or fun. The truth is that I was rotten. I pulled out all the stops when it came to bad behavior. My parents both remarried the same year and in a matter of months I went from being the oldest child to the third at my mom’s house and the oldest at my dad’s house, with a step-mom who had no kids and had never been married. It was a little rough.
Let’s fast forward a few years and get to the part where we are a happy family. Most importantly, I’d like to explain how we got here. As I mentioned, it wasn’t easy and it took several years, almost 10, to patch up the old hurtful feelings and move on.
The list I have compiled contains the most important aspects of bringing a family with step-parents together. Read it, digest it, and use the strategies offered.
1. Time. It is unrealistic to build a solid relationship or to patch up the past quickly.
2. Communication. I believe communication is the key to successful relationships in families and otherwise. Talk it out, share your feelings, listen to others, and match your body language to your words. Be explicit and clear with your words and motions.
3. Plan. Whether it’s moving in, talking to the kids about marriage, changing the rules, or anything else, thinking ahead and making a plan of action will relieve lots of stress in the moment. Family meetings are a great way to get everyone on board and committed to the plan going forward.
4. Be Flexible. Taking things one step at a time will help to reduce hurt feelings and push-back regarding a new plan. If things don’t go well the first time, re-evaluate and try again. Assess the situation from your families’ perspectives and needs and go from there.
5. The Other Parent. Be respectful of your child’s other parent. Talk about them in a neutral or positive light in the presence of your child. Do not argue, bicker, or bring up old baggage out of respect for your child and the relationship they have with that parent.
6. Collaborate. The most important member of your team is your child. The other members of that team need to collaborate in order for your child to succeed. Make that happen. Extend an olive branch to grandparents, teachers, coaches, friends, neighbors, ex-spouses, etc. Put your pride aside and do what’s right for your child.
7. Commit. It takes a huge commitment of time, effort, and heart to make it work. Juggling all the components listed above while living it day-to-day is difficult. Commit to your kid, commit to yourself, commit to your partner, and focus on the future of your new family.
8. Goals. Set some guidelines and goals to help you along the way. Make a plan of action and go for it. Start small and take baby steps in the beginning. Personal, couple, and family goals are all good components that help keep the ball rolling in the right direction.
Looking back on the first few years as a new family and knowing where we are now, I never thought it possible. I look back on the time spent trudging through the mud together and think of how awful it felt in the moment. How angry I was, the horrible things I said and did, and the silent treatments I thought would really work. Thankfully they didn’t work. We were in it together and we stayed in it together.