His And Hers Children

In the blended family, sometimes called a stepfamily, one or both halves of the couple has experienced divorce or the death of a spouse. There may be children from the previous marriage on one or both sides. The couple falls in love and decides to get married, a new family is formed combining two households.

The spouses may have sparkling expectations about their ability to make the blended family work. But your kids or the children of your new spouse may feel excluded from and worried about your decision to join families.

How will this new stepparent fit into their lives? Will they like their new stepbrothers and sisters? Will it be different now with their biological parent?

Endless Patience

If you provide them the right kind of support, the children should be able to adjust to the situation over time. As a stepparent, your job is to be open and honest, to make them feel secure, and to offer endless patience.

Keep in mind that loving your new spouse doesn't mean you will love his children. At least not right away. The opposite is true as well: his kids may not like you. Good, sturdy, loving relationships take time, trust, and shared history.

Firm Foundation

Making sure that these new relationships will develop a firm foundation is, in part, based on considering the needs of the children. Children have basic wants and needs. Meet them and you're halfway to a great relationship.

Here are some universal truths about the needs of children:

*Security and safety—kids need their parents to be dependable. The children of divorce are somewhat like refugees. They have been through the upset of having their parents let them down. They may feel too bruised to give a second chance to a stranger marrying one of their parents.

*Love—kids may not show it, but they do want to feel affection from the new spouse. Expressing tender feelings should be a very gradual process.

*Appreciation and recognition—kids need to know that they aren't a side issue. They need to feel they have their place in the sun. They need the stepparent to see and appreciate them. Let them know that they are an integral part of this new, blended family. Include them in decisions.

*Connection and understanding—kids want to be heard. Offer them a forum for their feelings and refrain from judging their opinions. By repeating back what they've said to you, you use a process of "mirroring" to show them you're listening.

*Encouragement—kids need praise: lots of it. They never outgrow this particular need. Look for opportunities to offer compliments.

*Limits—kids may not realize this need, but if you don't offer them limits, you're sending them a signal that they are insignificant and unworthy of your time, consideration, and attention. The new stepparent can't start out as an enforcer, but should instead, work together with the spouse to set forth limits.

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