From the time you are a young child to adolescent stages, you always envision what your life will be like. When a “grown up” asks you, “so what do you want to be when you grow up?” And that gets you thinking. Children are so eager to be like their mom and dad, or their older sister or brother. They long for the days where they can be grown up themselves and have their vision of that perfect career and family.
Let’s fast forward 30 years into the future. You now have your career, which you love. You have 2 beautiful children, whom you adore. And you have an ex-spouse, who sometimes or always drives you crazy, but they did help pro-create your amazing children. Thinking back you may have never expected your life to take this sort of turn. Maybe you were the planner and had everything, including your future, planned out to a “t” on some fancy excel spreadsheet. Regardless of your situation, life is unexpected. Life will throw curveballs your way. It is up to you to decide whether or not to take a ball and walk the distance, or strike out.
So now here you are in this new predicament. You are in love. You found a true mate that allows you to be free. And you are the happiest you have ever been. Only, the person you fell in love with this time around has children. One of the first thoughts that might cross your mind is, “how do we introduce the children together?” and “Will they get along?” Your children are your most precious gems. Everything that you do is for them, so naturally you want to make sure they are protected during a transition into a blended family. Contrary to popular belief, two families can live together cohesively and make it work, much like the Brady Bunch we all grew up to know and love. With a little love and understanding, and a lot of communication, it can happen.
Here are some tips on how to handle your Brady Story:
The worst thing you could possibly do is jump right into an introduction with both sets of children, regardless of their age. Rather, start talking to your children about the new person you are dating, when you feel you have reached that level with them. Discuss with your children how you feel and make sure they know this new person has children as well. Tell them their names and keep the lines of communication open when it has to do the kids. Merely talking to your children about activities your significant others children partake in will help them feel connected.
As cliché as it may sound, a casual play date with both sets of kids will make the transition down the road much smoother. By not putting expectations on your children about the them having new siblings in the house right away, etc., will allow them to simply be free. They can play and be free from any judgments.
Schedule a Family Meeting
When the decision has been made for you and your significant other to say “I do” plan a family meeting. First plan a meeting with just you and your children. Use this time to discuss your feelings about a 2nd marriage and the one you love, and find out how they feel. Ask them open-ended questions such as “What are your thoughts about this?” or “How do you feel about this?” This will be the only way you can find out whether or not they are harboring any resentment. If this meeting does not seem to go as planned, calling your therapist to help mediate might be a good solution. After you have met with you children, plan a bigger family meeting with the new gang. This time will be good to let everyone talk about the new living arrangements and go over rules and expectations. Giving the children a role in this will make them feel as if they are part of your decisions.
They need to know that no matter what, they are the most important things to the both of you and it is important that they feel like a family unit moving forward.
Things don’t always come out the way you have planned. If something seems to go wrong or to backfire, call in your reinforcements. Whether it be a family friend, a grandparent, or your therapist, calling in for an unbiased third party opinion may be a good solution. When in doubt, schedule an individual appointment with your therapist to discuss how to approach the subject properly and go from there.
This can be a tough time for both you and your children, if you or your children are still struggling with the transition, seeking counseling can help. Check out our Child and Adolescent Therapists page to see who is the best fit for you and your child.
About Jennine Estes, MFT
Think of me as your relationship consultant, I'm your neutral third party that can help you untangle the emotions and help you figure out what's really going on. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, CA. Certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples. Supervisor. I write relationship and self growth advice for my column Relationships in the Raw. Creator of #BeingLOVEDIs campaign. MFC#47653