If you are starting out, getting settled or thinking about blending your family, or know someone who is please read on. There are some ground rules to consider. Surfer Boy and I don’t live together, but I spend a lot of time at his home, and we spend a lot of time with our children all together. We are taking this slow and steady. There is no reason to rush a family that is blending kids. Our four kids are very important to us and I am sure yours are too. They are what matter, right? Sometimes it’s hard to remember to put your own selfish needs and desires aside. SB and I find plenty of time for us and sometimes 1/2 the excitement is finding that time to sneak in a moment here and there. Whether it be cooking together, passing by each other in the laundry room and oops the door suddenly shuts, or sneaking a few extra kisses by the car parked in a dark spot after a once in great while actual date. Whatever works for you! Make it fun for you and make it fun for the kids too. The kids are part of the relationship that also needs nurturing. If all the elements blend the way they are supposed too, we hope to be able to offer something stable and sturdy to each other and our kids.
Some rules I’ve learned and why I think they are important go a little like this:
1. Take it slow. Your kids have been through a lot of changes. Trust me when I say the first thing I would love to do, is be right by SB’s side every day. It’s love baby! If you have the confidence and patience it takes, the relationship you build with your love will have the foundation it needs to be for you and the kids. Don’t rush in to play house so quickly. There is a lot of effort, mistakes to get through, talking things over, reaching ground rules with each other before you make a more committed leap. Enjoy your dating time, and date the kids too. The kids will have time to feel comfortable and build the relationship you desire and one they can appreciate with you all in time. Every child finds their comfort level at their own time.
2. Let the parent be the parent for now. I cannot stress enough how important this is. The child of your significant other wants to feel special to you. They do not want you to play the role of the parent. There is a fine line however. You don’t need to buy them gifts or take them places and be over the top. You just need to show respect for them, obviously respect for their mom/dad, and be yourself. Give it time. As time goes on you build their trust and they start to understand that you are a positive roll in not only their parents life, but their life as well. Once you have established this, you can broaden your roll in their life. Ace and I have a pretty solid relationship. He is with his dad 100% of the time so I see him a lot. Maybe another day I will elaborate on the why’s of this arrangement but for now, I want to try to stay on the subject. The salty truths will eventually surface. I take him places with me, I give him affection, have conversation, offer advice. He loves when I make dinner, and generally I get a “YES!”, when he realizes I’m sticking around for the evening. His little brother Squirt is going to take more time. That’s ok. I want to give him the time. A step-parent relationship cannot be forced.
3. The fine line of discipline is: When there is a debacle it’s important to back up your significant other. Even if you think they are wrong or going a little overboard, or being to hard on their son, or think it’s to much, or he’s still a kid, cut him a break, stop hovering, you get the picture. My point is, constructive discipline is only when you assist in enforcing the decision of your step-kid’s parent. It’s not up to you to divy out the punishment or be the one in the middle of the debacle, or make the child accountable for their actions. This will harbor resentment from the child if you choose to take this roll. Ask me, I have a stepdaughter from my past marriage, who is grown who I’m sure hated that I took on this roll. This salty truth of why my roll in her life was this way is for another day. Not to worry, I love her dearly, she is my baby-girl and my girl’s older sister. Things you can get away with saying are: Your father has asked you twice now and I would love to see how well you can listen (or insert other constructive word), did I hear your dad ask you to clean out the dishwasher, and other non-contradicting but supportive things to help enforce your spouse and state your authoritative roll in your relationship with their parent and them! My point is, dont contradict the other, and dont be the kids savior. No point in saving them, you are not their best friend. You are the adult. Remember, fine line to walk. I never said it was easy! Which leads me to #4
4. Don’t contradict the other parent in front of your kids, or theirs. Period. Don’t do it. I shouldn’t have to explain any further, but this can create a loop hole for manipulation and create a huge wedge in your relationship with your spouse/significant other. Enough said.
5. Show affection to your sig. other’s kid(s), but only as much as they are ready. They want to feel special but not sure what that means right away. Depending on their age or stage they may feel like your replacing, stepping in and they dont want that. Examples: My step daughter never left my side since the night I met her. She was 8. She crawled in bed on Saturday mornings, laid next to me on the couch when we watched movies and snuggled right up with me until she was 11 or 12. Ace is 13, talks my ear off, calls me Special K, loves hugs, lets me kiss him on the cheek, we wrestle, and we hang-out. Squirt, Ace’s 7 year old little brother, has been reserved and he may always be. I will talk more about this little guy under “The Groms”, but we are at “high-five” stage. We definitely get our laugh on, and can play games, joke around, talk and hang out, but I handle him with care. My oldest daughter, Bink is 8, and she is the same way with SB as Squirt is with me. My youngest daughter Ju-ju is 5 and she climbs all over SB, loves all over him, and wants a big wet kiss when she sees him. See rule #1.
I hope this helps get you started. I will have the remainder of ground rules as we progress. Good luck!