This will be the final guest writer on the blog this month. I must say, this one is going to tug at your heart strings. I think it is wise to look at situations from different perspectives. Moms are oftentimes the writers on blogs. I am featuring a dad today who has something very important to say…
Love, Learning, and Blending- Helpful tips for the modern blended family
My name is Dave. I’m a physician, proud husband, and a step-father of twin six year-old girls. What these days we call a blended family. Perhaps not the most traditionally idealistic model but I can happily say that my home is as warm, full of love and laughter as any on our block. Like most families, our goals are to foster our strengths and identify our faults in order to better ourselves and grow. I hope to give some productive insight into what has worked and kept us thriving through the best and worst of days.
Prior to meeting my wife and her children the reality of a blended family was, admittedly, rather foreign to me. Then, as it does for all of us, life happened. I fell in love with the woman of my dreams and her two beautiful, then three year-old, children. With my preconceived definition of the traditional household; my priorities, mindset, and life forever changed. As the children and I grew closer I did a lot of reading and even saw a therapist to better understand and develop my role. However, nothing compared to good ole fashioned experience. Through this I found three underlying themes that have prevailed; understanding, respect, and consistency.
I won’t mislead you, it’s not always easy. Thriving as a blended family takes a tremendous amount of love and work on everyone’s behalf. It can be a very sensitive situation and requires an empathetically themed game plan on everyone’s part. Only after you have a good understanding of how things work, can you begin to incorporate into your new family in the most productive, non-threatening way.
As many blended families integrate, it’s all too common for new step parents to feel self or extrinsic pressure to conform to their preconceived definition of a parent. Even with the best of intentions this can lead to frustration, resentment, and undue pressure for everyone in an already sensitive situation. In my experience, with some practice, quite the converse has proven true. I found that patiently taking the time to observe when, where, and how I fit into the girl’s lives was the first and most important step in finding my way as a new step dad. The key here parallels exactly what we’re taught in medical school; look, process, and then act. This helped me understand what the girls needed from me and to promote a healthy relationship with their father.
My goal is to never confuse the girls with having two competing roles in their lives. Many falter here, becoming guarded and strive for separation of households to satisfy their own insecurities and needs. This is where you must find security within to offer yourself as an unconditionally loving role model. Outwardly respecting their relationship has opened the door to communication their father, building a strong network of stability and sense of family. With some humility and a sense of humor, you can get through anything. I’ve found that especially holds true here. Trust me, not a day goes by without my bicep size or lifting capacity measured against their Dad. You win some and you lose some, but you have to smile and understand they’re just sharing what they love with whom they love. It’s truly an honor for them to see me in the same light.
Children have an innate sense of disruption to their family unit so it’s imperative that you communicate with both sets of parents in order to define your role and expectations. Respect the situation and the emotions of everyone involved, no matter how you may feel yourself. Remember that you’re the new addition. Easier for some relationships than others, if you can find it in yourself to maintain an amicable relationship with your significant other’s ex, you’ll find the world of stepping much easier to navigate and ultimately more rewarding. In time, if you choose consistency and amity among the adults, the children will follow suit.
Blended or not, always remember to express your love and laugh with your family. I can’t stress enough how much your relationship with your spouse inherently plays a role in your relationship with your children. This theme is ubiquitous, especially in step parenting circumstances. I find it very important that the girls are exposed to my love, respect, and affections for my wife. This will not only shape their outlook on future relationships but fortify our relationship as a family unit. I’m constantly including them in ways to show love for Mom. The girls and I have a very special, unique bond in loving their Mother so I’ve taken that opportunity to make it a team effort and I treasure that bond with them.
Be patient, kind, and selfless and you’ll find that the children will accept you as their own just as your spouse does. It won’t happen right away but if you maintain consistency you’ll see over time how you’ll become your own family. Embrace your situation and teach your children how to learn from and rectify their mistakes to become the best they can. I know every situation has its inherent and unique difficulties but with time and introspection you’ll find that blending a family can be as rewarding and special as any house on your block.
As a part of today’s post, I am hosting a giveaway for two of the following children’s books. Please take a moment to read about the book and enter to win below! The contest will end in one week and the winner will be announced here!
A message about the book from the author (a friend and colleague of mine) Kristi Schwartz.
This book is meant to show that not all divorce situations are negative. There can be positive aspects in a divorce. Practicing kindness toward each other, while relating to the children, builds a positive foundation for this significant change in the children’s lives. The needs of the children must be the main priority. Kindness breeds kindness, in any situation.