The real difficulty is in coming to the understanding that the children in your new family now have two kinds of parents. The children involved each have one biological parent and each has a new step-parent. (And if the child's other biological parent is remarried, the child now has two such blended homes.)
Time is on your side: One of the most important aspects of developing a healthy blended family is to remember that love develops over time. As adults your relationship took time to develop. You met, dated, fell in love, planned a wedding and married. Even if the children involved were a big part of all that time, once you married the clock may have started over. Children take time to develop relationships. Don't rush the process. If a step-parent is patient and loving, most children will also slowly develop feelings of attachment and caring.
The struggle with authority: In the new blended family, children are often resentful of having to answer to another adult. The cry is usually, "You are not my father (mother)... You can't tell me what to do!" The children are going to struggle with the new step-parent's authority and complain to their biological parent that they feel treated unfairly... and in many cases... they are right, because its hard, very hard, to treat another person's child with the same compassion and understanding as you would your own child.
Or to put it a different way... the step-parent is sometimes more objective of the step-child and thus appears less understanding and even critical. Thus, in an attempt to really demonstrate their own good parenting and genuine caring, the step-parent will make comments or judge behavior of the step-child in a way that feels harsh to the child and promotes defensiveness in the biological parent.
Step-Parenting takes trust: In all families parents must recognize the importance of trust. In the blended family this is especially true. Both parents must find a way to trust each other. If you had created this family through birth (of the children), rather then through remarriage, you would still have differences in your parenting styles. Through communication and understanding, a trust for the individual style of parenting develops.
Different is not always bad... but different can be scary. Talk with each other about not only the different values or rules, but about your feelings about the change such differences can bring to a family. The modeling of communication and acceptance is important for the children to witness. So... you must find a way to talk about these differences... make compromises... and form a united front for the sake of the children's sense of security and ultimate adjustment.
If you find this process of blending families just too upsetting to the marital relationship... by all means don't just give up... seek the help and advice of a family therapist who has experience working with step-family problems.
Parent's Resource Center
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Revised: November 14, 2006