One of the questions I get asked a lot is “how do you make having a blended family look so easy?” Here are our family tips that seem to work for us…
A while back I was fortunate to interview an adult who grew up in a blended family, but I think, almost three years into my marriage, with a new baby in the mix, it’s time I tell you why my blended family works (for us)…
Let me start this post off by saying, these are rules that work and have been working for us. The post could be used as a guide for your family, but that’s up to you. Also, this post in no way targets anyone, but merely is an insight into what we’ve been dealt with and how we deal with it.
Firstly what is a blended family?
To my understanding, a blended family is “a family consisting of a couple, the children they have had together, and their children from previous relationships” – just like us.
What rules work for us?
From the day Zunaid and I said our vows, we vowed to be the best parents we can be to our kids. While our respective ex-spouses might not think that (it could be an assumption), our promise was and is always to do what’s best for each other and them (not our exes). So we came up with a set of rules that we haven’t diverted from.
Kids who come from a divorced situation aren’t special – sounds harsh when I put it like this but they aren’t. They are part of a situation they didn’t ask to be part of, however, they need to deal. They get two homes, two loving parents, two birthdays and when mom or dad remarries, they get another parent who loves them unconditionally. That sounds pretty darn lucky to me considering there are kids in this world who are orphans, growing up in the system or dealing with the loss of a parent. My experience is that people love offering sympathy to kids of divorce – especially if they act out. DON’T! Kids are master players. They don’t need sympathy. They need guidance, structure, parents, and love. My main aim in life isn’t just to raise well-balanced kids but also to ensure I don’t release spoilt assholes that society will need to deal with.
Stand as one with your partner – believe it or not – your child, as much as you love them, will be leaving the nest one day and you and your partner are all you two will have. So having war with your partner over kids, isn’t worth it. When you two got married, you knew the situation would be different. There are no his and hers. It’s ours. We don’t have “step”. My kids are raised as brother and sister and that’s all they know. So if your partner decides on something, do not override the rule and especially do not do it in front of the kids. Stand as one!
Love equally – Even in Islam, there are no “his kids and her kids” – when you get married, there is only ours. And when you choose to be part of a blended family, that’s how you love – equally. Your kids may all be different, just like your 5 fingers, but that’s all kids want – love.
You don’t owe your kids anything – this is always a topic I enjoy discussing. Why? People who just marry into a blended family feel they need to buy the kids’ love or you owe them an explanation. You don’t. If your kids are under the age of 14, you don’t owe them showers of gifts and you especially don’t owe them an explanation into why you got married again.
Memories vs materialism – Parent, listen up, being part of the blended family doesn’t mean you need to shower the kids with gifts and stuff for them to like and accept you. Why are you buying their love? Trust me, even I got bombarded with “you must buy me this or that” or “my mommy said you must” and my answer to this is usually “mmm, I don’t negotiate with toddlers or terrorists, so that’s a no on the buying you stuff” or “Am I buying you something because it’s your birthday or you did well in school, even though I’ve not seen your report?” In the beginning, I used to get sulking but sulking never killed anyone. Don’t get me wrong, my kids get stuff by me but buying their love isn’t my style. There was a time I used to each buy each of them something but if it was a weekend where I had both my kids, they wanted “gifts” for as long as we had them. So that stopped too. So now what does Zunaid and I do – gifts only happen for good term results or their birthday. When they are with us, we make memories or go out and have a meal together. And they love that much more as sometimes
Your ex isn’t part of your family – as odd as this may sound, its actually the truth. You are married to someone else and you and your ex only share a child. As long as your child is loved, cared for, fed and happy, your ex’s rules, requests, and demands have no place in your new home and marriage. Exes tend to forget its not about them – so rules, requests, and demands need to be brought to the table with not only you and the ex but your new spouse as well since it is their home. And 99% of the time your ex won’t want to do that as their rules, requests, and demands are more for them and ego-driven than for the sake of the child.
Listening vs hearing
There is a big difference in hearing and listening to your kids, especially what they aren’t saying. When your children, doesn’t matter where they came from, react, listen to what they aren’t saying. I can only speak from experience. To a kid, love is love. When one of my children started acting up, in the beginning, I was upset about it but after a calm chat, I found out that they were told that one of us isn’t their parents and they didn’t have to listen to the parent that isn’t their parent. And that broke them. No child should ever be put in the situation to have to choose – especially if they are forming a bond with a new parent – all because said ex-spouse is scorned. In no way is the child’s best interest put first but rather the scorned parent. We calmly explained that we love all our children and they are the luckiest to have more than 2 parents who love them.
Quality time with each kid
My kids love this. No, really they do. Zunaid does soda floats with our daughter and I often do breakfast with our son. In that time, each of us get to bond with our kids without the other kids or interference. In that time, my husband will learn all about Amra’s week or what upset her etc. My time with my son allows me to hear all about school and his friends and I’ve learned quite a lot from our mommy-son breakfast dates like he wants me to message his friends moms to organise a playdate and he likes me to help him with any homework he may have.
Two homes, therefore there are two sets of rules
We always remind our kids – you have two home and therefore there are two sets of rules. Rules that apply in your mom/dad’s house differ from that which applies in our home. In the beginning, they may try their luck and want to see how far they can push mommy/daddy’s rule but the sooner you nip it in the bud, the easier for everyone.
Be an example to your children
By that I mean, despite them not coming from a two-parent home, they are coming into a two-parent home. Show your spouse love, affection and respect. We do mealtimes together and they see us in our element of laughing with each other, dancing and just being happy – after all, happy parents, happy kids.
What rules do you have as a blended family?